US pledges support to Gaza without aiding Hamas

Antony Blinken says the US fully supported Israel against Hamas attacks and said it would prevent the militia from benefiting from Gaza’s reconstruction funds, reports Asian Lite News

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on a Middle East mission that Washington would rally support to rebuild Gaza as part of efforts to bolster a cease-fire between its Hamas Islamist rulers and Israel.

But Blinken made clear that the United States intended to ensure that Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organization, did not benefit from the humanitarian aid — a potentially difficult task in an enclave over which it has a strong grip.

Blinken began his regional visit in Jerusalem, where he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, speaking to reporters with the top US diplomat at his side, threatened a “very powerful response” if Hamas renewed cross-border rocket strikes.

Meanwhile, Blinken said the US fully supported Israel against Hamas attacks and said it would prevent the militia from benefiting from Gaza’s reconstruction funds.

The US secretary of state also said his job in the region was to reduce tension.

In tandem with Blinken’s mission, Israeli authorities said they were allowing fuel, medicine and food earmarked for Gaza’s private sector to enter the territory for the first time since 11 days of cross-border hostilities started on May 10.

A street directly hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza strip is seen in the central Israeli city of Holon on May 12, 2021. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua/IANS)
Blinken arrives in Egypt

Blinken arrived in Egypt on Wednesday on the next leg of a diplomatic mission aimed at shoring up a cease-fire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and the Hamas.

Blinken was scheduled to hold talks with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry and the country’s chief spy Abbas Kamel.

Blinken wrapped up extensive talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and is scheduled to travel to Amman, Jordan late Wednesday to meet with the Jordanian king and other officials.

He has vowed to “rally international support” to rebuild the destruction in hard-hit Gaza, while also promising to make sure that none of the aid destined for the territory reaches Hamas.

Ahead of his departure, Blinken extended US President Joe Biden’s invitation to Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to visit the United States in the coming weeks. Rivlin accepted, according to a statement from his office.

Relatives-of-Palestinian-young-man-Ahmed-Al-Shenbari-mourn-during-his-funeral-in-the-northern-Gaza-Strip-town-of-Beit-Hanoun.-Photo-by-Yasser-QudihXinhuaIANS

Blinken described Egypt and Jordan as central players in trying to bring calm to the region. Both countries are key US allies that have peace agreements with Israel and frequently serve as mediators between Israel and the Palestinians.

“Egypt played a critical role in helping to broker the cease-fire and Jordan has long been a voice for peace and stability in the region,” he told reporters late Tuesday.

In Egypt, which borders both Israel and Gaza, he was scheduled to meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and other top officials. Biden spoke with El-Sisi during the war to help broker the cease-fire.

Blinken has set modest goals for the trip, his first official visit to the Middle East as secretary of state. During talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on Tuesday, he made clear that the US has no immediate plans to pursue peace talks between the sides, perhaps because previous efforts by past administrations have all failed. Instead, he expressed hope for creating a “better environment” that might lead to peace talks.

US to reopen Jerusalem consulate

Blinken on Tuesday announced plans to reopen a key diplomatic outreach office to the Palestinians and pledged nearly $40 million in new aid — reversing key policies of the Trump administration as he moved to bolster the embattled Palestinian government in the West Bank.

In an act with great symbolic meaning, Blinken said the US would reopen its Jerusalem consulate — an office that for years served as the de facto embassy to the Palestinians.

Trump had downgraded its operations and placed them under his ambassador to Israel when he moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city in 2018. The embassy move infuriated the Palestinians, who claim Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem as their capital, and led them to sever most ties with the Trump administration.

Blinken did not provide a firm date for the reopening but said that Michael Ratney, a senior US diplomat who has previously served as consul general in Jerusalem, would soon be returning to the region.

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