US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned that while “the United States does not seek conflict with Iran,” it will act to defend itself “swiftly and decisively” against attacks by Iran or its proxies, and called on United Nations member states to urge Iran not to become directly involved in the Israel-Hamas war.
That message has been conveyed “consistently” to Iranian officials “through other channels,” Blinken said at a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday.
The top US diplomat’s pointed public missive comes in the wake of an uptick in attacks by Iranian-backed proxies against US interests in the Middle East.
US and coalition forces in Iraq and Syria have been attacked at least 13 times since October 17, according to the Defense Department.
Multiple US officials told CNN that the US has intelligence that such groups are planning to ramp up attacks against US forces in the Middle East as Iran seeks to capitalize on the backlash in the region to US support for Israel.
In his remarks Tuesday, Blinken reiterated the US’ full-throated support for Israel to defend itself and called on the international community to “unequivocally condemn Hamas’s barbaric terrorist attack against Israel.”
He stressed that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, and Palestinian civilians are not to blame for the carnage committed by Hamas.”
“Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harm to civilians,” Blinken said.
Blinken does not call for an Israeli ceasefire
However, rather than call for a ceasefire, Blinken instead said that “humanitarian pauses must be considered” to allow desperately needed aid to reach civilians in Gaza.
There is growing international condemnation over the civilian death toll in Gaza and limited aid that has been allowed into the strip. A limited number of aid trucks only began to access Gaza over the weekend, and aid agencies and doctors on the ground have warned that if fuel runs out, it will be catastrophic.
“I’m here today because the United States believes the United Nations – and this council in particular – has a crucial role to play in addressing this crisis,” Blinken said Tuesday, noting that the US had “put forward a resolution that sets out practical steps that we can take together toward that end.”
“A broader conflict would be devastating, not only for Palestinians and Israelis, but for people across the region and, indeed, around the world,” the top US diplomat said.
“To that end, we call on all member states to send a firm united message to any state or non-state actor that is considering opening another front in this conflict against Israel or who may target Israel’s partners, including the United States: Don’t. Don’t throw fuel on the fire,” he said.
He specifically called for countries to not only urge Iran to show restraint, but also “make clear that if Iran or its proxies widen this conflict and put more civilians at risk, you, you will hold them accountable.”
“Act as if the security and stability of the entire region and beyond is on the line – because it is,” he said.
He said he would discuss preventing the conflict from spreading with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Washington later this week.
Blinken again urged countries to leverage their connections to press for the immediate release of hostages held by Hamas, saying that “every member of this council, indeed, every member of this body should insist on that.”
Four hostages – two Israelis and two Americans – have been released in recent days, but more than 200 hostages are believed to be trapped in Gaza.
The top US diplomat also said that the UN should “redouble our collective efforts to build an enduring political solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“The United States stands ready to work with anyone ready to forge a more peaceful and secure future for the region, the future its people yearn for and so deserve,” he said.
CNN’s Michael Conte contributed reporting.
For more CNN news and newsletters create an account at CNN.com