Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was meeting with top Israeli officials on Tuesday, continuing diplomatic efforts to avert a broader war in the region.
A day earlier, a spokesman for Israel’s military said that it was shifting to a new phase of combat involving fewer troops and airstrikes.
Mr. Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on Monday after Israel launched strikes into southern Lebanon killing a senior commander of Hezbollah, the powerful Iranian-backed militia, further inflaming concerns that others could be drawn into the fighting. The Biden administration has been struggling with deepening disagreements with Israeli counterparts over issues including the risk of a wider war and the need to limit Palestinian civilian deaths.
Israeli officials privately told U.S. officials that they were aiming to complete the change in war strategy by the end of January.
Before his trip to Israel, Mr. Blinken met with the leaders of Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. It is his fourth trip to the region since Hamas and other militants attacked southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing at least 1,200 people.
After meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia on Monday, Mr. Blinken said that there was still “clear interest” in diplomatic recognition between the kingdom and Israel. The remarks were an indication that the door to the normalization of ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel remained open after the Oct. 7 attack.
In the marathon meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his war cabinet and other Israeli ministers, Mr. Blinken said, he would “have an opportunity to share with Israeli leaders everything I’ve heard thus far on this trip.”
He said he would also press on the “absolute imperative” to protect civilians and increase the humanitarian assistance reaching the Gaza Strip’s 2.2 million civilians. The State Department said Mr. Blinken had spoken on Monday with Sigrid Kaag, the newly appointed U.N. coordinator overseeing aid entering Gaza.
As of Monday, more than 23,000 people had been killed in Gaza in the three months of war, according to the local health ministry. Extreme shortages of food, water, medicine and other basic necessities continue to afflict the more than 1.9 million people displaced by the fighting.