US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with Israelis and Palestinians next week as the IDF and Hamas observe a truce that ended rocket attacks on Israeli cities and the bombardment of Gaza.
Reuters cited a source as saying that Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday. The secretary of state’s trip will also reportedly include stops in Egypt – which mediated the truce between Tel Aviv and the Gaza-based Palestinian militant group Hamas – and Jordan.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced on Thursday that Blinken will travel to the Middle East in the coming days, where he will meet with Israeli and Palestinian officials, as well as with regional leaders. Blinken has already spoken over the phone with his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Secretary looks forward to meeting with Israeli, Palestinian, and regional leaders while visiting the region in the coming days.— Ned Price (@StateDeptSpox) May 21, 2021
The truce between Hamas and Israel came into effect in the early hours of Friday, after 11 days of cross-border attacks left 248 dead in Gaza, and 13 in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) started bombing multiple targets in Gaza after Hamas launched volleys of rockets at Israeli cities. The flare-up was preceded by simmering tensions between the Jewish and Arab communities in Jerusalem.
During the height of the fighting, Israel’s longtime ally the US repeatedly blocked UN Security Council statements calling for an immediate end to the hostilities, and access of humanitarian aid into Gaza. However, US officials welcomed the ceasefire that was ultimately reached.
An Israeli source told news website Axios that during Blinken’s Wednesday call with Ashkenazi, he urged Israel to wrap up its military campaign in Gaza.
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US President Joe Biden stressed that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas attacks, at a time when human rights groups and the media were criticizing the IDF for killing civilians in Gaza. Israeli officials have always maintained that the IDF was only striking Hamas-linked targets and that the militants were using civilians as human shields.
The German, Czech, and Slovak foreign ministers toured Israeli homes that were destroyed by Hamas’ rockets on Thursday. “Germany stands with Israel and its right to defend itself,” Germany’s top diplomat, Heiko Maas, told reporters, adding that the security of Jewish residents is “not negotiable.”
After the truce was reached, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to respond with “a new level of force” if Hamas and other militants resume attacks on Israelis. Netanyahu’s willingness to agree to a ceasefire without imposing restrictions on Hamas was criticized by right-wing politicians at home. Avigdor Lieberman, the leader of the Yisrael Beytenu party, called the truce “another failure of Netanyahu.”
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was cited by Israeli media as promising to continue “fighting for Jerusalem” and “liberating the Al-Aqsa Mosque” in Jerusalem’s Old City.
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