Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East to avoid

Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East to avoid a regional conflagration

American diplomacy chief Antony Blinken embarks on a new tour of the Middle East on Thursday in hopes of preventing an expansion of the war in Gaza following the elimination of No. 2 Hamas in Lebanon and deadly explosions in Iran.

• Also read: In northern Israel there are fears of a military escalation with Hezbollah

• Also read: Israel is preparing for “any scenario” after the deadly attack on Hamas No. 2

• Also read: US destroyer shoots down anti-ship missiles fired from Yemen

The American Secretary of State will leave Washington on Thursday evening for this new diplomatic shuttle in the region, the fourth since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, with a stop planned on Israeli soil, an American official said on Wednesday evening.

No country has “an interest in escalation,” said Matthew Miller, the American diplomatic spokesman, who has been criticized in the region for his unwavering support of Israel since the attacks on Gaza began.

Fears that the war between Israel and Hamas could ignite the entire Middle East have escalated since a deadly attack Tuesday on Hamas No. 2, Saleh al-Arouri, in the southern suburbs of Beirut, and a double explosion on Wednesday 95 deaths claimed, continued to rise in Iran.

In Tehran, officials accused Israel of being behind the “assassination” of the senior Hamas official and the “attack” near the grave of General Qassem Soleimani, the former architect of Iran's operations in the Middle East. In the east, Iran celebrated the fourth anniversary of the death.

Israel has not commented on the allegations. In Washington, an official said the attack against Saleh al-Arouri was “Israeli,” while the State Department called the idea that the United States or Israel were linked to the explosions in Iran “absurd.”

The Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised “a tough response” to the explosions. And Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel of further escalation following the death of Saleh al-Arouri, who is to be buried in the Palestinian Shatila camp in Beirut on Thursday.

“At the moment we are fighting on the front lines in a calculated manner […]but if the enemy thinks of starting a war against Lebanon, we will fight without borders, without restrictions and without borders […] We are not afraid of war,” said Hassan Nasrallah.

In Israel, Army Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi said his troops were on alert on the border with Lebanon (north), where exchanges of fire have occurred almost daily since the start of the war. War between Israel and Hamas.

“We are at a very high level of preparation in the north […] I believe our preparations are at the highest level,” he said, citing “opportunities” to bring about “significant changes” in the region.

In northern Israel, the population fears that tensions with Hezbollah will worsen. “Of course we are worried, my poor parents, my brother and his wife (whose son is a soldier, editor's note) don't sleep at night. My mother is under lock and key,” says Lee Zorviv, manager of a clothing store in Nahariya (north).

Israel vowed to “destroy” Hamas after the Palestinian Islamist movement launched an unprecedented attack on its territory on October 7 that killed around 1,140 people in Israel, most of them civilians, according to an AFP count. based on official Israeli data. Commandos had also taken around 250 people hostage, more than 100 of whom were released in late November as part of a week-long ceasefire.

The war that has been ongoing in Gaza since that attack has claimed the lives of 22,313 people, mostly women, youth and children, or nearly 1% of the territory's population of 2.4 million, according to Hamas's latest assessment. a movement classified as “terrorist” by the United States, Israel and the European Union.

Since the beginning of this conflict, tensions have also increased in Syria and Iraq, where American bases have been attacked, but also in the Red Sea, where the Houthi rebels in Yemen are carrying out “support” attacks to slow down maritime traffic. » in Gaza.

In addition, 18 maritime carriers are currently bypassing the African continent to avoid the Red Sea, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) said on Wednesday, as a United States-led coalition urged the Houthis to “immediately stop their attacks” without if they do so they would accept the “consequences”.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army continued its airstrikes on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, particularly in Khan Younes (south) and Deir al-Balah (center), where the Hamas Health Ministry reported fatalities.

“Hamas still has significant capabilities in Gaza,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in Washington.

“We believe that reducing and defeating Hamas's ability to carry out attacks in Israel is a fully achievable goal for the Israeli Defense Forces. It is militarily feasible. Will his ideology be eliminated? NO. And is the group likely to be destroyed? Probably not […]”, he added.

In addition to airstrikes and ground fighting, people in Gaza are facing severe shortages of food, water, fuel and medicine as humanitarian aid arrives despite a UN resolution.

Hazem al-Najjer Abou Ahmed, a baker, has created discounted cookies to “relieve the burden” on the children of his village of al-Musaddar (center), he tells AFP.

“Most of the bakeries were bombed […], prices for all food remain high and there is a shortage of everything. So we and our neighbors came up with the idea of ​​relieving the burden on our population and our children.”