US top diplomat warns of risk of Gaza conflict ‘metastasizing’


Following meetings with King Abdullah in Amman and with Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, Blinken said the United States rejected any forcible displacement of Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.

“Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions allow,” Blinken said in Doha.

Blinken and Qatari officials also discussed efforts to free hostages still believed to be held by Hamas after an earlier agreement mediated by Qatar broke down, something that the Qatari prime minister said was affected by the recent killing of a top Hamas leader.

Blinken also aimed to press hesitant Muslim nations in the Middle East to prepare to play a role in the reconstruction, governance and security of Gaza if and when Israel manages to eliminate Hamas, a State Department official said earlier.

“Our partners are willing to have these difficult conversations and to make hard decisions,” Blinken told reporters, adding that he plans to press Israeli leaders to do more to prevent civilian casualties and allow in more humanitarian aid.

Gun battles intensified in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis as well as in central districts of the densely populated enclave. Israeli strikes on houses in the city killed 50 people, health officials in Nasser Hospital said on Sunday.

Outside Gaza, there was more violence in the occupied West Bank. Israeli aircraft fired on Palestinian militants who had attacked troops in the area, the military said, and Palestinian health officials said seven Palestinians died in the strike.

An Israeli border police officer was killed and others wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device during operations in the West Bank city of Jenin, the military and police said.

Israeli police killed a young Palestinian girl in a car at a West Bank crossing when they opened fire on another car suspected of a ramming attack, Israeli emergency services said.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and settlers over the past weeks.

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