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Blinken Urges Gaza Post-War Civilian Return, Israeli Leaders Take Aim at UN Refugee Agency

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JERUSALEM, Israel – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his latest trip to Israel Wednesday, urging that Palestinian civilians be allowed to return to northern Gaza as soon as conditions are right, and not be pressured to leave the Gaza Strip.

Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog, other members of the cabinet, and military leaders. He said the current crisis has clarified what's needed for regional peace.

"As I told the Prime Minister, every partner that I met on this trip said that they're ready to support a lasting solution that ends the long-running cycle of violence and ensures Israel's security," Blinken stated. "But they underscored that this can only come through a regional approach that includes a pathway to a Palestinian state. These goals are attainable, but only if they're pursued together."

Blinken arrived in Israel after meeting with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, and Greece. He was seeking pledges from those countries to contribute to the eventual reconstruction and governance of Gaza.

The secretary stood with Israel on the matter of South Africa's claim to the International Court of Justice that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, rejecting it as baseless.

"Moreover, the charge of genocide is meritless," he said. "It's particularly galling, given that those who are attacking Israel – Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, as well as their supporter Iran – continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews."

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Israel's government maintains major changes are necessary in Gaza, once Hamas is dealt with. One such change is in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency or UNRWA.

Knesset member Sharren Haskel told CBN News, "UNRWA is an organization of the United Nations that is a complete coverup for Hamas activities, okay? And terrorist activities. Hamas has taken over this organization, and so, we knew this for a while. But now, after the 7th of October, we have to take their masks off and tell the world what it is doing."

Haskel convened a meeting of the Knesset Caucus to Reform UNRWA on Tuesday.

"They are inciting and educating children to violence and hatred. They're teaching them martyrdom, how to be child soldiers. That's their education system. It's based on radical Islam. And, you know, the international community is paying for it," she said.

UNRWA was started in 1949, after hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled or left their homes during Israel's War of Independence. It's the only U.N. refugee agency made for a specific group of people, and the only one which includes not only the refugees themselves as having refugee status, but also their descendants – forever.

Dan Diker, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told us, "UNRWA has been a turbocharged engine of terror, coming out of Gaza, which has become a forward base for the IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps) and the Iranian regime."

Diker believes there needs to be international supervision of UNRWA, led by the U.S.

"It's the Iranian regime that is mobilizing UNRWA with its Hamas proxy to incite to the murdering of Jews and Israelis to carry out acts of terror," he said. "They have essentially memorialized, if you will, or they have sanctified, as a strategic objective, the destruction of Israel from within UNRWA compounds and organizations within Gaza."

Meanwhile, fighting continues in Gaza, as Israel operates against the Hamas infrastructure there. Israel is also striking back against Hezbollah attacks from southern Lebanon.

In the Red Sea, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched one of their largest drone and missile attacks Tuesday, targeting Red sea international shipping. The U.S. and British navies shot down the projectiles, from which no damage was reported.

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About The Author

Julie Stahl

Julie Stahl is a correspondent for CBN News in the Middle East. A Hebrew speaker, she has been covering news in Israel fulltime for more than 20 years. Julie’s life as a journalist has been intertwined with CBN – first as a graduate student in Journalism; then as a journalist with Middle East Television (METV) when it was owned by CBN from 1989-91; and now with the Middle East Bureau of CBN News in Jerusalem since 2009. As a correspondent for CBN News, Julie has covered Israel’s wars with Gaza, rocket attacks on Israeli communities, stories on the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and