Israel-Hamas war: Blinken arrives in Saudi Arabia, US pledges further attacks on Iran-linked targets

Six fighters from a US-backed Kurdish-led group are reportedly killed by a drone attack on a base also housing US troops in eastern Syria

US secretary of state Antony Blinken has arrived in Saudi Arabia on his fifth visit to the region since October, as the US pledged further retaliation against Iran-linked targets in the Middle East.

In Riyadh, Mr Blinken is expected to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as his Saudi counterpart, foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

He is also expected to travel to Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank this week, focusing on advancing talks on the return of hostages taken from Israel by Hamas in exchange for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza.

Hamas is believed to still have about 136 people in captivity in Gaza, not all of whom are believed to still be alive.


The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said humanitarian issues in Gaza would be a top priority for Mr Blinken.

He also said there would be more steps in the American response to last weekend’s deadly drone attack on US soldiers in Jordan.

Speaking to NBC’s Meet the Press, he said the retaliatory strikes launched on Iran-linked targets in Iraq and Syria on Friday were “the beginning, not the end, of our response”.

Later, the US military said it had struck a Houthi land attack cruise missile early on Sunday and four anti-ship cruise missiles hours later “all of which were prepared to launch against ships in the Red Sea”. It was the third batch of US strikes against Iran-backed militias in the Middle East in as many days.

In the first significant attack in Syria or Iraq since the US launched strikes over the weekend against Iran-backed militias that have been targeting its forces in the region, six fighters from a US-backed Kurdish-led group were reportedly killed late on Sunday by a drone attack on a base also housing US troops in eastern Syria.

The US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Monday the attack hit a training ground at al-Omar base in Syria’s eastern province of Deir el-Zour, where the forces’ commando units are trained. No casualties were reported among US troops.

Israel has meanwhile struck residential buildings in Rafah over the weekend, killing at least 20 people and injuring dozens more, according to the UN.

The city had formerly been designated a safe zone by the Israeli military, which ordered Palestinians to flee there. It is now sheltering more than half of the occupied territory’s 2.3 million people.

At least 27,478 Palestinians have been killed and 66,835 have been wounded by Israeli military action in Gaza since October 7th, Reuters reports the health ministry in Gaza said on Monday. The ministry, which is run by Hamas, does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in the death toll.

The news agency AFP reports 128 people – mostly women and children – were killed in Israeli strikes overnight to Monday citing figures from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

The Hamas government media office said Israeli bombardments had continued across the centre and southern end of coastal territory, including near hospitals.

Over the weekend, Israel pressed further south towards the border city of Rafah, warning its ground forces could advance on Rafah as part of its campaign to eradicate Hamas.

On Monday morning, sources told AFP they could hear artillery shelling in the areas of eastern Rafah and Khan Younis, Gaza’s main city.

Israel says Khan Younis is where militants prepared for the October 7th attack, and that high-ranking Hamas officials are hiding there. – Guardian