Blinken in Israel on Mideast Tour to Shore Up Gaza Truce

Clay Curtis
May 25, 2021

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a Middle East visit in Israel on Tuesday, seeking to bolster its ceasefire with Gaza's ruling Hamas group and help speed humanitarian aid to the devastated Palestinian enclave.

Blinken, who landed at Ben Gurion International Airport early Tuesday, has been the top USA executive to visit the region since President Joe Biden took office. He also plans to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. "During his trip, Secretary Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel's security", Biden said in a statement.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed the bombing campaign had killed "more than 200 terrorists" in Gaza.

Biden announced his visit and Blinken said he would work with local partners on "coordinated worldwide efforts to ensure immediate assistance to Gaza".

According to global law, East Jerusalem is amongst occupied Palestinian territories that were captured during the 1967 war, where "transferring own civilian population into is considered a war crime".

Biden announced the visit, saying Blinken would work with regional partners on a "coordinated worldwide effort to ensure immediate assistance reaches Gaza".

Blinken on Sunday reaffirmed USA support for a two-state solution as the only way to provide hope to Israelis and Palestinians that they can live "with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity".

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Monday's fatal altercation took place a short distance from the occupied east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah, the site of regular protests against the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in favour of Jewish settlers. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist.

Israeli police said an attacker stabbed two young Israeli men in Jerusalem on Monday before police shot him dead.

Hours before Blinken's arrival, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli security sources said.

However, Abbas remains an global representative of Palestinians and is considered an important partner in the long-term peace process.

Blinken will also visit neighboring Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago and have acted as mediators in the conflict. Egypt succeeded in brokering the Gaza truce after the Biden administration pressed Israel to wind down its offensive. "The first is to ensure the continuation of the ceasefire and the aggression on Gaza, and to ensure that the Israeli attacks and violations that triggered the recent escalation are not repeated", Safadi said, warning that the siege that Israel is carrying out in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood is pushing the situation to explode again. The administration has defended its response by saying it engaged in intense, but quiet, high-level diplomacy to support a cease-fire.

He said it was not the right time to resume negotiations immediately, but that measures could be taken to destroy hundreds of homes in Gaza and fix the damage caused by Israeli airstrikes that damaged infrastructure. The narrow coastal territory, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from importing arms, while the Palestinians and human rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.

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