Blinken Heads to Middle East to Build on Israel-Hamas Cease-fire

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken heads to the Middle East Monday after a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect early Friday morning. This is Blinken’s first trip to the region as the top U.S. diplomat. He will meet with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional counterparts as part of Washington’s efforts to build on the Gaza truce.   The United States said it is committed to working with the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations to provide rapid humanitarian assistance and to gather international support for Gaza and Gaza reconstruction efforts. “Our focus right now relentlessly is on dealing with the humanitarian situation, starting to do reconstruction and rebuild, and engage intensely with everyone, with Palestinians, with Israelis, with partners in the region,” Blinken told CNN Sunday. Meanwhile, Egyptian mediators have been traveling across the Gaza border and met with Hamas’s West Bank-based rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in an effort to sustain the cease-fire.  Egypt mediated the Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about climate change at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2021.He told ABC’s “This Week” show that Palestinians need to “feel hope to live in security and dignity in a Palestinian state.” He said U.S. President Joe Biden “remains committed to a two-state solution,” with a separate state of Palestine, but acknowledged it was “not necessarily something for today.”  Blinken blamed Hamas militants for the recent fighting, saying, “Hamas has brought nothing but ruin to the Palestinian people.”   The Biden administration has said a two-state solution is the only answer to resolving the conflict between the two sides.  “Let’s get something straight here: Until the region says, unequivocally, they acknowledge the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state, there will be no peace,” Biden said Friday during a joint press conference with visiting South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Biden also said it’s essential to ensure the security for Palestinians in the West Bank and help the people of Gaza. Washington said it will work with the Palestinian Authority to rebuild Gaza but not with Hamas and “in a way that will not allow Hamas to re-arm.” It’s seen as a difficult plan since the Hamas-led Palestinian militants control Gaza. Hamas had fired rockets at Israeli cities from Gaza since May 10, for what it said were rights abuses committed by Israel against Palestinians in Jerusalem.    Israel retaliated with targeted artillery and airstrikes on leaders of Hamas and the group’s infrastructure. The Israelis faced international condemnation for blowing up high-rise buildings and striking refugee camps and other targets, which caused extensive civilian casualties.   

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