Secretary of State Antony Blinken will tour Egypt, Israel and Palestine, US announces, as Israel kills at least 10 Palestinians in its single deadliest operation in occupied West Bank in 20 years.
Top American diplomat Antony Blinken will travel to Egypt, Israel and Palestine this weekend, the State Department has announced, as the US expressed alarm about escalating violence after Israel’s single deadliest operation in the occupied West Bank in 20 years.
Blinken’s visit to Israel has been planned for weeks, but the Israeli raid on a West Bank refugee camp earlier on Thursday — that killed nine people, including a 61-year-old woman — will likely dominate his talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The Israeli military also fatally shot a 22-year-old Palestinian later in the day.
Palestine announced three days of mourning. Meanwhile two rockets were fired from besieged Gaza early on Friday, the Israeli military reported.
Blinken’s trip, the second by a senior US national security official this month, had already been expected to be fraught with tension over disagreements between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
Thursday’s raid and the subsequent outcry are expected to make the visit even more difficult.
US says Palestine shouldn’t seek international forum
Meanwhile, a top US diplomat for the Mideast said the administration was urging both sides to de-escalate tensions in the wake of the raid and decried Palestine’s announcement that they would cut off all security cooperation with Israel as a result.
Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said US officials had been in touch with top Israeli and Palestinian officials since the incident happened to stress the importance of calming the situation.
She said the civilian casualties reported in Jenin were “quite regrettable.”
But, she also said the Palestinian announcement that it would suspend all security cooperation with Israel in the aftermath was a mistake, as was a Palestinian vow to bring the matter to the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
Blinken will hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el Sisi in Cairo on Sunday before going to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday to see Netanyahu and Palestine’s President Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said.
He will be the second top Biden official to visit Israel this year, following national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who made the trip just last week as US concerns were growing over the violence as well as the direction of Netanyahu’s new right-wing government.
In Jerusalem and Ramallah, Blinken will also underscore the importance the US attaches to maintaining the status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque complex.
Blinken won’t meet controversial Israeli politicians
Tensions have soared since Israel stepped up raids in the occupied West Bank last spring.
Israel’s new national security minister, far-right politician Itamar Ben-Gvir, who seeks to grant legal immunity to Israeli soldiers who shoot Palestinians, posted a video of himself beaming triumphantly and congratulating troops after West Bank raid.
The Biden administration has serious concerns over the composition of Netanyahu’s government that includes several far-right Israeli politicians who are opposed to some of the administration’s fundamental Mideast policies, including a two-state resolution to the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict.
Like Sullivan, Blinken does not plan to meet with the most controversial of those Cabinet members, according to US officials.