US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began his Middle East visit in Israel on Tuesday, anticipating to strengthen the ceasefire with Gaza’s Hamas and help haste humanitarian aid to the confounded Palestinian enclave.
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 the 11 days of cross-border hostilities which had started on May 10.
Blinken is also due to visit Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Cairo, and Amman, with the United States harboring “every hope and expectation” the ceasefire would continue to hold, a senior State Department official said.
“Our primary focus is on maintaining the ceasefire, getting the assistance to the people who need it,” said the official, who spoke on Monday on the condition of anonymity. Egypt brokered the truce, in coordination with the United States.
But the official suggested it was too early for wider peace talks between Israel, in political flux with the country’s four inconclusive elections in two years, and the Palestinians, divided by enmity between Hamas and Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.
Blinken’s agenda included talks in Jerusalem on Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah with Abbas. Blinken is due to remain in the region until Thursday.
The right-wing Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu, who usually avoids using the term “Palestinian state”, had been largely in convergence with Biden’s Republican predecessor Donald Trump, who cut off US aid to the Palestinians and promoted a peace plan that envisaged Israel holding onto most of its settlements in the West Bank.
The hostilities were set off in part by Israeli police raids on the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem and clashes with Palestinians worshippers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
At least 253 people were killed in Gaza and more than 1,900 were wounded, health authorities said, during the heaviest Israeli-Palestinian fighting in years.