With growing concerns that the conflict between Israel and Hamas is escalating into a more extensive regional issue, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commenced his fourth urgent visit to the Middle East in just three months. His itinerary began with a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday.
They deliberated on approaches to manage the turmoil in the Gaza Strip and explored alternative methods to foster enduring peace in the region, as stated by Matthew Miller, a spokesperson from the State Department.
As a NATO member and a significant ally of the United States, Turkey, under the leadership of President Erdoğan, has expressed criticism towards Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.
In their in-person meeting, Blinken emphasized the importance of preventing the escalation of the conflict, ensuring the release of hostages, increasing humanitarian aid, minimizing civilian casualties, and advocating for the establishment of a Palestinian state, according to statements from spokesperson Matthew Miller.
Following the discussion with President Erdoğan, Blinken departed from Turkey and headed to Crete, where he had a planned meeting with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
He is also scheduled to visit Jordan, Qatar, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, the West Bank, and Egypt in his efforts to seek diplomatic resolutions for the escalating violence in the Middle East.
However, despite global diplomatic endeavors, indications of the Israel-Hamas conflict spreading became evident on Saturday morning. Hezbollah launched a barrage of rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon, claiming responsibility for 62 rockets. These rockets targeted the Israeli surveillance base on Mount Meron and two Israeli army bases near the Israel-Lebanon border.
Israeli forces, on the other hand, reported that 40 rockets were launched and did not mention any impact in the Meron area.
The rocket assault occurred a day after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah urged the group to retaliate for the death of Hamas political leader Saleh al-Arouri. Al-Arouri, believed to be the mastermind behind the Oct. 7 attack in Israel that initiated the conflict, was killed in an Israeli airstrike in Beirut on Tuesday.
Shortly after the Hezbollah attack, Israel’s Channel 12 released a video that purportedly showed an Israeli military helicopter intercepting and downing a drone launched by the terrorist group.
תיעוד: כך מסוק קרב הפיל כטב”ם חיזבאללה – יום קרב בצפון עם מטח כבד על מירון ושיגורים רבים לגליל
— החדשות – N12 (@N12News) January 6, 2024
People living in northern Israel and southern Lebanon also observed the presence of the Israeli Air Force’s sizable balloon designed for detecting missiles, known as the “Elevated Sensor” or “Sky Dew,” positioned along the border.
According to the Times of Israel, the system is currently non-operational and has encountered several challenges in its development.
The system became airborne on Saturday after receiving components shipped from the United States, as reported by local news sources.
Additionally, on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces released new footage showcasing its elite Egoz commando unit in southern Gaza. The footage indicated that the troops engaged with Hamas gunmen in a school and conducted a raid on the residence of the terror group’s battalion commander in east Khan Younis.
““Some of the weapons and combat materials were located in a bedroom next to dolls and children’s games, including ones inciting hate and violence against Israel,” they remarked. This refers to a child’s puzzle that seemed to endorse violence against Israel.
The disconcerting and vivid child’s toy portrayed a child clad in a white robe holding a Palestinian flag while firing a machine gun. It also depicted armed individuals on boats approaching Israel from the sea.
The IDF releases new footage of the elite Egoz commando unit operating in southern Gaza, where it says troops raided the home of Hamas’s east Khan Younis battalion commander and battled gunmen in a school.
In the town of Bani Suheila on the outskirts of Khan Younis, Egoz troops… pic.twitter.com/C4wYZFLAqu
— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) January 6, 2024
Above the puzzle, there was a caption in both English and Arabic that read “Liberate Palestine.”
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas nears its 100th day, the mother of an Israeli man, confirmed on Friday to have been killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack, criticized the Israeli state for its failure to prevent and address the massacre.