U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday described the present situation in the Middle East as the most worrying it’s been since the 1973 war between Israel and a partnership between Egypt and Syria.

In a press conference alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Blinken said the U.S. will respond to the drone attack that killed three U.S. troops and injured over 40 U.S. service members but noted the Biden administration is intent on preventing “broader escalation” in the region amid Israel’s war in Gaza.

“I think it’s very important to note that this is an incredibly volatile time in the Middle East,” Blinken said. “I would argue that we have not seen a situation as dangerous as the one we’re facing now across the region since at least 1973, and arguably even before that.”

The short-lived war between Israel and Arab states, sparked by a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 6, 1973, killed 2,656 Israeli troops and injured more than 7,250 Israeli soldiers. It is estimated that as many as 15,000 Egyptians and 3,500 Syrians died but exact numbers are unknown, according to Reuters.

It is known as the “Yom Kippur War” in Israel and the “October War” in Egypt and Syria.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is investigating the deadly attack at a military base in Jordan that hosts about 350 U.S. troops. The enemy drone was allowed to pass because it was allegedly mistaken for a U.S. drone returning to the U.S. installation near Jordan’s border with Syria, U.S. officials cited by The Associated Press said.

Blinken offered no details on what a U.S. response would entail.

“Obviously I’m not going to telegraph what we might do in this instance or get ahead of the president,” he said. “But I can again tell you that as the president said [Sunday], we will respond and that response could be multi-leveled, come in stages and be sustained over time.”

Deputy Pentagon press secretary Sabrina Singh said the U.S. is still working to assess who was behind the attack, but said a militia backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was likely involved.

“Iran continues to arm and equip these groups to launch these attacks, and we will certainly hold them responsible,” Singh added.

During his press conference, Blinken also addressed the pause in U.S. funding for UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, following allegations that some its staff may have been involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed about 1,200 Israelis.

Blinken said the accusations were “troubling,” calling on the agency to investigate and potentially hold people accountable if wrongdoing is found, noting the group is playing “an absolutely indispensable role in trying to make sure that men, women and children who so desperately need assistance in Gaza” receive it.

“No one has the the reach, the capacity, the structure to do what UNRWA has been doing,” Blinken said. “And from our perspective, it’s important, more than important, imperative that that that role continues. So that only underscores the importance of UNRWA tackling this as quickly, as effectively and as thoroughly as possible, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. is taking part in talks hosted in Paris between Israel, Egypt and Qatar regarding a potential cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that would reportedly see a six-week pause in fighting in exchange for the release of hostages still held by Palestinian militants, according to The New York Times.

“I can just tell you that there is again, strong, I would say alignment among the countries involved that this is a good and strong proposal and the work that was done over the weekend, including by CIA director Bill Burns, was important in helping to advance this,” Blinken said.

Blinken did not directly answer a question on how Israeli senior officials taking part in a conference encouraging resettlement in Gaza coupled with a leaked recording of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing Qatar, which is helping mediate hostage talks with Hamas, could hurt the ongoing talks.

The war in Gaza has killed over 26,000 Palestinians and injured more than 65,000, according to local officials. At least 220 Israeli troops have so far died in the conflict, Israeli officials say.


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