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U.S. calls on countries with influence over Hamas to condemn its assault on Israel

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

The United Nations Security Council met this afternoon in emergency session as diplomats try to contain the conflict in Gaza and Israel. The Biden administration says the U.S. is standing firmly behind Israel, and today the administration announced it's sending a naval carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean as a show of support. And the U.S. says countries that have influence with Palestinian militant group Hamas should condemn the group for its assault and press it to release hostages. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Secretary of State Antony Blinken made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk shows, calling this a massive terrorist attack by Hamas, whose militants dragged Israeli men, women and children across the border into Gaza.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

ANTONY BLINKEN: A Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair, women and children all being taken hostage - so you can imagine the impact this is having in Israel, and it should be revolting to people around the world.

KELEMEN: Outside the U.N. Security Council, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, held up pictures and showed videos on his iPad of Israelis being hauled away by Hamas in what he described as a barbaric pogrom. He said Hamas is no different from ISIS and al-Qaida, and the world shouldn't try to reason with them anymore.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GILAD ERDAN: This is Israel's 9/11. This is Israel's 9/11. And Israel will do everything to bring our sons and daughters back home.

KELEMEN: The State Department is looking into reports that some Americans are among those held hostage. Several Americans were also reportedly killed. Blinken told NBC's "Meet The Press" that everyone in the Biden administration has been working the phones to rally support for Israel and encourage countries in the region to use their influence with Hamas.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

BLINKEN: The president, myself, everyone throughout our government working around the world both to build up that support and to get countries to use the influence they may have with Hamas to get it to cease and desist.

KELEMEN: While the U.S. wants to see the world come together to condemn Hamas, the Palestinian ambassador at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, doesn't want the world to give Israel a blank check.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RIYAD MANSOUR: You cannot say nothing justifies killing Israelis and then provide justification for killing Palestinians.

KELEMEN: The Palestinians are calling for an emergency meeting of the Arab League. Until this weekend, U.S. diplomacy in the region was focused on a long-sought-after deal to get Israel and Saudi Arabia to normalize ties. Secretary Blinken told NBC there's no secret who opposes that.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")

BLINKEN: Those who are opposed to the talks, those who are opposed to Israel normalizing its relations with its neighbors and with countries beyond the region, are Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran. And so it's entirely possible that one of the motivations for this attack was to try to derail these efforts to advance normalization.

KELEMEN: Israel's ambassador, Erdan, echoes that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERDAN: They definitely want to derail the chances of having normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel. We still want it to happen. We'll do everything that we can to live in coexistence with all of our neighbors.

KELEMEN: But Israel right now is at war with Hamas. And though the U.S. says it doesn't have indications that Iran was behind this Hamas assault, Iran does have a long history of arming and financing Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the United Nations.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.