The US pledges support for the Gaza ceasefire, but with no ‘benefit’ to Hamas


Top US diplomat Antony Blinken on Tuesday pledged support to help rebuild the battered Gaza Strip and support a truce between Hamas and Israel, but insisted that the area’s Islamist militant rulers would not benefit from any help.

Blinken’s tour, which began in Israel and will also take him to neighboring countries Egypt and Jordan, is as unrest continues to grip parts of annexed East Jerusalem after Friday’s ceasefire ended 11 days of fighting in and around the Gaza Strip.

At a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ahead of talks with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas later in the West Bank, Blinken warned that Washington would not allow international aid to rebuild impoverished Gaza in favor of Hamas.

“We will work closely with our partners to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from reconstruction aid,” Blinken said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is currently meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at the Prime Minister’s office in Jerusalem.

– Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) May 25, 2021

Netanyahu warned that Israel would react very strongly if Hamas violated the truce.

“If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very strong,” said the Israeli prime minister.

Blinken, who previously said his trip would be in support of “efforts to establish a ceasefire,” had no contact with Hamas, which has been blacklisted by Washington and most other Western governments. as a terrorist group.

“The United States fully supports Israel’s right to defend itself,” he reiterated.

US President Joe Biden said Blinken would “meet with Israeli leaders about our rock-solid commitment to Israel’s security,” as well as attempt to rebuild ties with the Palestinians.

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

His comments on “equal measures” for Israelis and Palestinians seemed to change the tone of Donald Trump’s administration, which cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and unveiled a Middle East peace plan with strong Israeli backing but no Palestinian support. .

In Jerusalem, Blinken said Israelis and Palestinians would have to fight hard to restore confidence, following a conflict in Gaza and unrest in the West Bank.

“We are working hard to restore hope, respect and some trust in the communities,” said the US top diplomat.

“But we have seen the alternative, and I think it means we should all redouble our efforts to keep the peace and improve the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians.”

Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza have killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured more than 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict as of May 10, Gaza’s health ministry said.

Rocket and other fires from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including a child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, an Indian citizen and two Thai workers, medics say. About 357 people in Israel were injured.

Mass arrests

Blinken’s visit comes as the ceasefire continues, but tensions are simmering in Israel and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.

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

The man was killed in an Israeli arrest raid on Al-Amara refugee camp near Ramallah, the sources said.

In East Jerusalem, Israeli police said an attacker stabbed two young Israeli men on Monday before police shot him. The army said one of the injured was a soldier.

Palestinian news agency WAFA identified the victim as a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student.

On the night from Sunday to Monday, Israeli forces rounded up 43 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.

Israeli police, operating in East Jerusalem, said late on Sunday that they had arrested 1,550 suspects and charged 150 suspects in the past two weeks in connection with the “violent events.”

Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including on the status of East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The latest military escalation began after bloody clashes in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, also revered by Jews as the Temple Mount.

By the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Israeli forces had moved in with Palestinian believers.

They had also tried to quell protests against the threat of expulsion of Palestinian families from homes in Sheikh Jarrah’s East Jerusalem neighborhood to make way for Jewish settlers.