US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a press conference after meeting at the Danish Foreign Ministry, Eigtved’s Warehouse, on May 17, 2021 in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Saul Loeb | Reuters
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Middle East this week after nearly two weeks of fighting between Israel and Palestinians, a White House statement said Monday.
“After our quiet, intense diplomacy to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, I asked my Foreign Secretary Tony Blinken to travel to the Middle East this week,” said President Joe Biden’s statement as part of the trip would be a meeting of Blinken with Israeli leaders include, “On our iron commitment to the security of Israel”.
Blinken is also intended to focus on US-Palestinian relations, which the Biden Declaration describes as “our government’s efforts to restore and support relations with the Palestinian people and leaders after years of neglect.”
The Israeli Security Cabinet voted Thursday to approve a provisional ceasefire after 11 days of fighting with Hamas in Israel and the Gaza Strip, the worst violence the area has seen since 2014. The negotiations that led to the ceasefire were reportedly led by Egypt, the only country with open communications links with both Israel and Hamas, the political party and the US-appointed terrorist group that rules the Gaza Strip.
Israeli air strikes and internecine fighting killed more than 220 Palestinians in Gaza in 11 days, including more than 100 women and children. During that time, Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, killing 12 people there, two of whom were children.
Biden has been targeted by human rights groups and progressive Democrats because they were perceived as an escalation of the conflict and because his government continued to provide financial and military support to Israel. His administration has revived support for Palestinians and restored $ 235 million in US aid – most of it going to the United Nations Refugee Program for Palestinians – which was cut completely under the Trump administration.
The US provides Israel with US $ 3.8 billion in military aid annually. And in early May, before the fighting began, the Biden government cleared a $ 735 million sale of precision-guided ammunition to Israel – a sale that several progressive Democrats are now trying to stop.
A Palestinian woman carries her child amid the rubble of her homes destroyed by Israeli air strikes during the Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza on May 23, 2021.
Mohammed Salem | Reuters
The violence in the blocked Gaza Strip, the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Jerusalem and several locations in Israel sparked after the Israeli government evicted Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and sparked protests.
The largely peaceful demonstrations sparked a harsh response from Israeli law enforcement agencies – including firing tranquilizers at the Al-Aqsa mosque during Islamic prayers – and the subsequent rocket launch by Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, into Israel.
Israel responded with air strikes that the military said were directed against Hamas, but bombed several civilian homes and a building that houses foreign media outlets such as the Associated Press.
Israel has occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem since its 1967 war, establishing Jewish settlements there that the majority of the international community consider illegal under international law. Israel rejects this.