WASHINGTON – The Biden administration dispatched a top State Department diplomat to the Middle East “immediately” to try to de-escalate the deadly conflict between Israel and Hamas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday.
President Joe Biden faces growing pressure to help stem the violence and heightened international alarm over the spiraling death toll. The United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East, Tor Wennesland, warned on Wednesday that the situation “is escalating toward full scale war.”
More than 80 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting, including 17 children and seven women, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, and another 480 people have been wounded. Hamas, the Islamic militant group that seized power in Gaza in 2007, acknowledged that a top commander and several other militants were among the dead.
A total of seven people have been killed in Israel. Among them were a soldier killed by an anti-tank missile and a 6-year-old child hit in a rocket attack.
The fighting has also spilled out into the streets, with Arab and Jewish mobs savagely beating people and torching cars. Flights have been canceled or diverted away from the country’s main airport.
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“We are deeply engaged across the board,” from the State Department to the White House, Blinken said.
But critics say that’s simply not true.
“The Biden administration came into office with one overriding goal: Avoid Israel-Palestine,” Peter Beinart, editor at large of Jewish Currents, a left-leaning magazine, and a journalism professor at the City University of New York. He noted that when Barack Obama came into office, he quickly appointed a high-wattage special envoy, George Mitchell, to jumpstart the peace process.
“Biden has given the Israeli-Palestinian file to a deputy assistant secretary of state,” Beinart wrote Wednesday in an essay on Substack, an online publishing platform. “The contrast with the Obama administration couldn’t have been starker.”