Blinken Evades Questions About U.S. Asking Israel to Delay Ground Invasion

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken dodged repeated questions on Sunday about whether the U.S. was encouraging Israel to delay a possible ground invasion to allow for more time on diplomacy as troops and tanks prepare for a full-scale invasion into Gaza, even as over 200 people—including 10 Americans—are hostages.

Responding to questions from CBS News’s Margaret Brennan and NBC News’s Kristen Welker, Blinken focused on “the slaughtering of men, women, children” that occurred during Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7, and reiterated his belief in Israel’s “obligation to defend itself.” “We are not in the business of second-guessing what they’re doing,” he told Welker.

“These are decisions that Israel has to make,” Blinken added. “We can give our best advice, our best judgment, again, about how they do it and also how best to achieve the results that they’re seeking.”

Asked Saturday whether he was encouraging Israel to delay an invasion, Biden responded: “I’m talking to the Israelis.” On Sunday, CNN reported that the administration is pressing for a delay, but a senior Israeli official denied the reports. “The U.S. is not pressing Israel in regards to the ground operation,” the official said.

Blinken’s interviews came two days after the U.S., with the help of Qatar, secured the freedom of two Israeli-Americans held captive by Hamas: Judith and Natalie Raanan. Blinken said he’d spoken with both of them. “We are very appreciative of the assistance that we got from the Government of Qatar, to make sure that they could get out and now soon be reunited with their families,” Blinken said. “We’re hopeful that others follow.”

In his Sunday interviews, Blinken also addressed the possibility of a broader war breaking out in the region, as Israeli strikes have hit Hezbollah targets in Lebanon and airports in Syria. On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that if Hezbollah, which supports Hamas, enters the conflict, it “will be making the biggest mistake of their lives. And we will hit them with an unimaginable force. It will mean devastation for them and the state of Lebanon.”

“We are concerned at the possibility of Iranian proxies escalating their attacks against our own personnel, our own people,” Blinken said to Brennan. “We’re taking every measure to make sure that we can defend them and, if necessary, respond decisively.” His comments echoed those of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who warned of a “significant escalation of attacks” on U.S. troops or citizens.

“If any group or any country is looking to widen this conflict and take advantage of this very unfortunate situation… our advice is: don’t,” he said Sunday on ABC’s This Week.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said in a press conference Sunday that Israel’s bombardment of Gaza could have “far-reaching consequences.” “I warn the U.S. and its proxy Israel that if they do not immediately stop the crime against humanity and genocide in Gaza, anything is possible at any moment and the region will go out of control,” he said.

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