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Rocket sirens force Blinken into bunker during meeting in Israel

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials were relocated to an Israel Defense Forces command center to continue their discussions.
Rocket sirens force Blinken into bunker during meeting in Israel
Posted at 7:14 AM, Oct 16, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were forced to seek shelter in a bunker after rocket sirens went off in Tel Aviv on Monday, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller. 

It's unclear whether any rockets made direct impact in Israel or if they were intercepted. 

Blinken is in Israel to pledge America's support for Israel in the wake of a Hamas terrorist attack. 

Miller said Blinken, Netanyahu and other officials have since relocated to an Israel Defense Forces command center to continue their discussions.

The IDF says Hamas and other Palestinian militants are holding 199 hostages in Gaza, which is higher than previous estimates.

Israel's military did not specify whether that number includes foreigners, though National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby had previously told reporters "less than a handful" may be Americans.

The number of Americans killed in the Israel-Hamas conflict, ignited a week ago by the terrorist group, has grown to 30, according to a U.S. State Department spokesperson. Currently, 13 U.S. citizens remain unaccounted for.

In response, Israel is preparing to launch a ground offensive into Gaza aimed at Hamas targets in Gaza City. Israel urged a mass evacuation of Palestinian civilians in the north over the weekend in preparation.

While many have fled their homes, conditions for Palestinians in Gaza are dire. Residents are packed into hospitals and schools, seeking shelter as they run low on food, water and supplies. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians sheltering in United Nations facilities are on less than a quart of water per day, according to The Associated Press.

Power, water and other resources were previously cut off in the region. But after 48 hours of strong U.S. pressure, Israeli officials confirmed they turned the water supply back on in parts of the Gaza strip on Sunday. Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel in the next 48 hours, putting thousands of lives at risk, AP reported.

After a meeting with Blinken on Sunday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi said he’s agreed to open the Rafah crossing — a border between Egypt and the Gaza strip — to assist in the evacuation of Palestinians. There’s still confusion about when and for how long that crossing will be open. 

At least 2,750 Palestinians have been killed and 9,700 have been wounded since Hamas first launched an unprecedented attack on Israel on Oct. 7, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

More than 1,400 Israelis have died, most of them civilians.

On Monday, a ship organized to get more Americans out of Israel will depart from the Israeli city of Haifa and embark on a 10- to 12-hour journey to Cyprus. The U.S. Embassy said from there, U.S. nationals can arrange travel or utilize chartered planes set up to take them home.

More than 270 stranded Americans arrived on a charter flight from Israel to Tampa, Florida, Sunday night.

SEE MORE: U.S. organizes ship to get more Americans out of Israel


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