NATIONAL NEWS

Blinken heads to the Mideast again as fears of regional conflict surge

Jan 4, 2024, 9:41 AM

FILE - Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with human rights leaders at the S...

FILE - Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a meeting with human rights leaders at the State Department, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023 in Washington. For the second time this month, the Biden administration is bypassing Congress to approve an emergency weapons sale to Israel. The State Department said Friday, Dec. 29, that Blinken had told Congress that he had made a second emergency determination covering a $147.5 million sale for equipment that is needed to make the 155 mm shells that Israel has already purchased function. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to the Middle East this weekend for the fourth time since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October as once-abated fears about a regional conflagration are surging with attacks and assassinations in the Red Sea, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq.

The Biden administration had breathed a sigh of relief about the potential for a broader Mideast war in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s military response to the deadly Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, when it counseled Israeli officials not to mount pre-emptive strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Two-and-a-half months later, though, the chances of a regional war have increased with Israel determined to strike Hamas operatives and leaders no matter where they are and Iranian proxies like Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels and pro-Iran militias stepping up attacks on U.S., Israeli and international interests in the Red Sea, Iraq and Syria.

Blinken leaves late Thursday on his latest extended Mideast tour. The State Department said Thursday he will visit Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank and Egypt.

As with his previous visits, Blinken will be concentrating on expanding humanitarian aid to Gaza, pressing Israel to minimize civilian Palestinian casualties, the release of hostages held by Hamas and the importance of planning for the administration of a post-war Gaza.

But, recent developments, including the drone strike attributed to Israel that killed a senior Hamas leader in Beirut, the explosions in Iran that targeted a memorial service for U.S.-assassinated Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, a drone attack on a pro-Iranian Iraqi militia group in Baghdad and U.S. and allied responses to Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, will crowd his agenda.

After sending two aircraft carrier strike groups to the eastern Mediterranean in mid-October in part to deter a Hezbollah response to Israel’s operations in Gaza, the U.S. is now focused on deterring attacks by the Iran-backed Houthis in the Red Sea.

At the same time, it has warned Iraqi militia groups that attacks on U.S. troops or bases in Iraq and Syria will not be tolerated.

National News

Associated Press

Southern New Mexico wildfire leads to evacuation of village of 7,000

RUIDOSO, N.M. (AP) — Residents of a village in southern New Mexico were ordered to flee their homes Monday without taking time to grab any belongings due to a fast-moving wildfire. “GO NOW: Do not attempt to gather belongings or protect your home. Evacuate immediately,” officials with Ruidoso, a village home to 7,000 people, said […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Convicted killer of California college student Kristin Smart ordered to pay $350k in restitution

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — A California judge ruled Monday that a man convicted of killing 19-year-old college student Kristin Smart in 1996 must pay just over $350,000 to her family for costs they incurred after her death. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Jennifer O’Keefe ordered Paul Flores to make the payments after a […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

Central African Republic faces increased rebel activity and spillover from Sudan war, UN experts say

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Activities of armed groups in the volatile Central African Republic have increased, complicating a security landscape that has seen a spillover of the conflict in neighboring Sudan, U.N. experts warn in a new report. The panel of experts cite confirmed reports of air raids by the Sudanese military around border areas […]

9 hours ago

Associated Press

A judge temporarily blocks Iowa law that allows authorities to charge people facing deportation

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked an Iowa law that allowed law enforcement in the state to file criminal charges against people with outstanding deportation orders or who previously had been denied entry to the U.S. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher issued a preliminary injunction because he said […]

11 hours ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

12 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to governor’s 400-year school funding veto

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear a challenge to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ partial veto that locked in a school funding increase for the next 400 years, the justices announced Monday. The Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce Litigation Center filed a lawsuit in April arguing the governor exceeded his authority. The group […]

12 hours ago

Blinken heads to the Mideast again as fears of regional conflict surge