In a speech delivered on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Israel to prioritize humanitarian aid and the protection of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Without these measures, he warned, there would be no partners for peace. At the same time, Israel expressed heightened concerns about potential attacks on its northern border with Lebanon, prompting them to tighten their encirclement of Gaza City. Israeli and Hezbollah forces have engaged in cross-border exchanges of fire since an attack on October 7, raising fears that the conflict could escalate further. In his first public speech since the war began, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah declared that his group had “entered the battle” and hinted at the possibility of escalation. Despite Blinken reaffirming U.S. support for Israel’s right to self-defense, he called for a “humanitarian pause” to allow for increased aid deliveries and protection of Palestinian civilians. Blinken also reiterated the U.S.’s support for the eventual recognition of a Palestinian state. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, rejected a temporary ceasefire that did not include the return of abducted Israeli hostages and emphasized that Israel would continue its military offensive. Blinken stressed the need for an immediate increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza and expressed the importance of protecting Palestinian civilians. He emphasized that how Israel conducts its campaign against Hamas matters, as it affects the prospects for lasting security and peace in the region. Nasrallah’s speech suggested that Hezbollah is ready to engage further in the conflict, but he stopped short of declaring full engagement in the war. The Israeli military remains on high alert along its northern border with Lebanon in response to recent attacks by Hezbollah. Blinken reassured that the U.S. is committed to preventing the opening of a second or third front in the conflict and declared unwavering support for Israel’s right to defend itself. The potential involvement of Hezbollah in the war poses a devastating risk for both Israel and Lebanon, given Hezbollah’s superior military capabilities and substantial arsenal. Renewed fighting could also draw Iran, which supports both Hamas and Hezbollah, into the conflict. The casualties on both sides of the conflict continue to rise, with more than 9,200 Palestinians killed and over 1,400 Israelis dead. Blinken’s visit to Israel follows President Joe Biden’s suggestion for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to allow for aid to enter and for the release of Palestinians with foreign passports and the wounded.