He has nearly 40 years of experience in the Middle East, with Foreign Service assignments in Syria, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and two tours in Lebanon. He also served as National Security Council staff director.
“Civilians should not have to suffer for Hamas’s atrocities,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in announcing Satterfield’s appointment during a visit to Cairo. “We’re determined to do everything we can to address the needs of people in Gaza.”
The appointment comes as Israel prepares to launch an invasion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Israel warned those in northern Gaza on Friday to evacuate, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to flee the region in buses, in cars and on foot.
Israeli commanders have said they’re planning to invade the Palestinian territory in an effort to end the militant group’s rule. Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel a little over a week ago, killing more than 1,300 civilians and soldiers and taking scores of hostages.
In his new role, Satterfield will lead a campaign to “mitigate the humanitarian fallout of Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. He added that Satterfield’s decades of experience working in the Middle East will be “instrumental in our continued effort to address humanitarian issues in the region.”
The crisis in Gaza has grown increasingly dire in recent days after Israel cut off electricity, fuel and other services. The United Nations and international rights groups have warned that the directive for 1.1 million civilians to evacuate was unworkable and would have devastating humanitarian consequences.
The U.S. government had negotiated a deal to allow American citizens to leave Gaza and cross into Egypt during a five-hour window Saturday, but even that effort failed.
Blinken said Satterfield would arrive Monday in the region to begin coordinating and “moving assistance in to people who need it and helping people get out of harm’s way.”
Satterfield had a wide range of diplomatic roles at the State Department, including acting assistant secretary for Near East affairs and Iraq coordinator. He also worked on the 1995 Roadmap for Israel-Palestinian Peace and the 2000 withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces from Lebanon, according to his Rice University biography.
Karen DeYoung and John Hudson contributed to this report.