Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenREUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

In conversation with Dana Bash of CNN’s State of the Union, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented on the deadly terrorist attack on Saturday morning from Gaza.

"This is the worst attack on Israel since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 – 50 years ago," Blinken said. "But that was a conventional war between countries, between armies. This, on the other hand, is a massive terrorist attack on Israeli civilians – the indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilians, thousands of rockets; men and women and children dragged across the border into Gaza, including a Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair; people gunned down in the streets, civilians. Imagine the impact this is having on Israel. This should be something that is causing the entire world to cry out in uproar."

Most of Israel is currently in relative calm, but intense fighting is continuing in the Gaza area. Blinken said that President Biden contacted Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Herzog, and Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, in an attempt to verify the US support for Israel, adding that "every country is using every effort to pull Hamas back and to prevent this from escalating."

Secretary Blinken added, "Our first focus is to make sure that Israel has what it needs to deal with the situation in Gaza, to deal with the some-thousand militants who came into Israel – again, attacking Israeli civilians in their homes, in their towns. They, as of now, seem to have been pushed back for the most part into Gaza, but we want to make sure that Israel has what it needs."

"President Biden was very clear in sending a message to anyone in any other area who might try to take advantage of the situation not to. And whether that’s in the north with Hezbollah and Lebanon, whether it’s in the West Bank, or whether it’s elsewhere, we’ve sent that message very clearly and we’ve sent it directly, and we’ve sent it through other countries."

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said just nine days ago that, "The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades. Now, challenges remain: Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians."

"But it seems that the issue of crisis and conflict in the Middle East today is significantly reduced. In recent years we have seen countries coming together, the region integrating, hostilities diminishing. We’ve been very engaged in pursuing, for example, normalization between Israel and its neighbors, building on what’s already been done, including with Saudi Arabia. And other conflicts, like the conflict in Yemen where we’ve had a truce now for almost two years, have made a huge difference. But with all that has developed over this time, the attack is not a state-to-state conflict. This is a terrorist attack by a terrorist organization.

"In terms of the intelligence, there’ll be plenty of time in days to come to look and see what anyone missed, what might have – what we could have done better. Right now, the focus is on helping Israel and making sure that it has what it needs to deal with this attack."

Secretary Blinken also considered the possibility that part of the motivation for the attack may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together, along with other countries that may be interested in normalizing relations with Israel.

Regarding intelligence that Hezbollah is contemplating a more fulsome attack in the north of Israel, Secretary Blinken responded that "one of the reasons President Biden was very clear from the very first moments that no one elsewhere should try to take advantage of this situation is precisely to do everything we can to ensure that there’s not another front in this conflict, including Hezbollah in Lebanon. We saw some limited firing of missiles by – coming from Lebanon toward Israel. That seems for now to have stopped. The Israelis responded immediately. And as of now, that’s quiet, but it’s something we’re watching very carefully."