With concerns mounting that the Israel-Hamas war is expanding into a broader regional crisis, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken kicked off his fourth urgent visit to the Middle East in just three months on Saturday with a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
The pair discussed strategies for containing the conflict in the Gaza Strip and other ways of promoting “lasting regional peace,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told NBC News.
Turkey is a NATO member and a key US ally, Erdoğan has been critical of Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in recent weeks.
During the face-to-face, Blinken underscored the need to “prevent the conflict from spreading, secure the release of hostages, expand humanitarian assistance and reduce civilian casualties,” as well as the need for a “Palestinian state,” Miller said.
After the meeting with Erdoğan, Blinken left Turkey for Crete, where he was scheduled to meet with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
He is also slated to stop in Jordan, Qatar, the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, the West Bank, and Egypt as he attempts to find diplomatic solutions for the widening Middle East violence.
But despite international efforts, signs of the Israel-Hamas conflict spreading were clear on Saturday morning, as Hezbollah launched a volley of rockets into northern Israel from Lebanon.
The terror group claimed it launched 62 rockets, and made direct hits in the direction of the Israeli surveillance base on Mount Meron, along with two Israeli army bases near the Israel-Lebanon border.
Israeli forces, however, said that 40 rockets were fired and made no mention of the Meron area being hit.
The rocket attack came one day after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah called on the group to avenge the death of Hamas political leader Saleh al-Arouri, believed to be the architect of the Oct. 7 attack in Israel that started the war, by an Israeli airstrike in Beirut on Tuesday.
A few hours after the Hezbollah attack, Israel’s Channel 12 released a video apparently showing an Israeli military helicopter shooting down a drone launched by the terror group.
“This is how a combat helicopter shot down a Hezbollah drone — a day of battle in the north with a heavy barrage on Miron and many launches into the Galilee,” the outlet explained on X.
The claims that the drone was shot down could not immediately be confirmed.
Residents in northern Israel and southern Lebanon also spotted the Israeli Air Force’s large missile-detecting balloon – the “Elevated Sensor,” or “Sky Dew” – positioned along the border.
The system is not operational and has faced several development setbacks, the Times of Israel reported.
The system went airborne Saturday after receiving parts shipped from the US, the outlet added, citing local news reports.
Also on Saturday, the Israel Defense Forces released new footage of its elite Egoz commando unit in southern Gaza, where it said troops battled Hamas gunmen in a school and raided the home of the terror group’s east Khan Younis battalion commander.
“In the town of Bani Suheila on the outskirts of Khan Younis, Egoz troops raided a school where Hamas operatives were holed up,” the Times of Israel’s Emanuel Fabian wrote on X alongside a video of the Egoz unit firing past blackboards and other school materials.
“The IDF says the troops killed three gunmen during a battle in the school. On their bodies, it says forces found RPGs and ‘a lot of intelligence information’ about Hamas’s Khan Younis brigade,” Fabian added.
IDF troops in the Gaza Strip also raided a civilian home that was “used as Hamas terrorist infrastructure,” the military wrote on X.
“Our commando troops located Hamas weapons, grenades, magazines, and vests,” the IDF announced alongside images of stacks of firearms and ammunition.
“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 added, referring to a child’s puzzle that appeared to promote violence against Israel.
The troubling, colorful child’s toy depicted a child wearing a white robe and holding a Palestinian flag firing a machine gun, as well as armed people on boats approaching Israel from the sea.
A caption above the puzzle read “Liberate Palestine” in English and Arabic.
While the war between Israel and Hamas approaches its 100th day, the mother of an Israeli man who was confirmed Friday to have been killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack slammed the Israeli state for failing to prevent and address the massacre.
Yael Adar wrote on Facebook Saturday that saying her son, 38-year-old Tamir Adar, was killed in the attack “minimizes the magnitude of the failure.”
“The message should be different: Tamir was seriously injured when he was protecting his family and the community, in the absence of protection for the settlement,” Yael lamented.
“Tamir was kidnapped while injured and alive. Tamir was murdered in the absence of immediate medical attention,” she added.
“This is the default! It is convenient for everyone to write murdered on October 7 as if it happened in one moment that Tamir did not feel, and he could not be saved. If the state had been functioning, Tamir would have been saved. If the state was functioning, this failure would not have happened,” the grieving mother said.
With Post wires