United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that Washington is prepared to retaliate if US troops are targeted in the course of the Israel-Hamas war, as the possibility of the conflict spreading across the Middle East rises.
Blinken, who was speaking during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, said he expects the war to escalate through involvement by proxies of Iran, adding that the administration of US President Joe Biden is prepared to respond if American personnel become the target of any such hostilities.
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“We are taking steps to make sure that we can effectively defend our people and respond decisively if we need to,” Blinken said, noting that additional military assets had been deployed to the Middle East, including two aircraft carrier battle groups.
The US diplomat also said Israel does not want to rule the Gaza Strip after the war with Hamas draws to a close, according to his discussions with Israeli officials.
But he emphasised that after the war, there could be no return to the status quo.
“You [Israel] cannot be in a position where you are constantly exposed to the threat of the most terrible terrorist attacks from the Gaza Strip,” said Blinken. “So something needs to be found that ensures that Hamas can’t do this again, but that also doesn’t revert to Israeli governance of Gaza, which they do not want and do not intend to do.”
Israel’s army has been bombing Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip since bloody attacks by Hamas on October 7. At the weekend, the Israeli Air Force increased its attacks again in preparation for a ground offensive on Gaza. It is currently unclear what plan Israel has for the period after the expected ground offensive is completed.
Meanwhile, US President Biden on Sunday held a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the situation in Israel and Gaza, the White House said. Biden also spoke with Pope Francis on Sunday.
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies