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Blinken in Jordan on Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days starting May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says

AFP , Wednesday 26 May 2021
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves upon arrival at Queen Alia International Airport, in the Jordanian capital Amman, on May 26, 2021. AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Jordan Wednesday on the last leg of a Mideast tour that aims to shore up an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza.

Blinken will meet King Abdullah II, following two-days of regional talks -- including with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders -- to throw Washington's support behind the truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza.

Following talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas at his headquarters in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Blinken vowed to rebuild US relations with the Palestinians by reopening a consulate in Jerusalem, as well as give millions in aid for the war-battered Gaza Strip.

The announcements signalled a break with US policy under former president Donald Trump, who had shuttered the diplomatic mission for Palestinians in 2019 and slashed aid to the Palestinian Authority.

In the long term, Blinken evoked the "possibility of resuming the effort to achieve a two-state solution, which we continue to believe is the only way to truly assure Israel's future as a Jewish and democratic state, and of course to give the Palestinians the state they're entitled to".

After meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he reiterated support for Israel's right to defend itself against rocket attacks by Gaza's Hamas rulers, adding that they must not benefit from the reconstruction aid.

Hamas political chief Yahya Sinwar vowed Wednesday not to take "a single cent" of the aid, insisting that "we have never taken a cent in the past".

Blinken said Wednesday the US was in the process of providing more than $360 million in assistance to Palestinians, including $250 million announced in March and April.

On top of that, the administration intended to provide $75 million in aid to the Palestinians, as well as $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza, and nearly $33 million for an emergency humanitarian appeal by the UN.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab met with both Netanyahu and Abbas Wednesday, calling on "all sides to respect the ceasefire" and urging an end to the "cycle of violence" through a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The latest military escalation started after Israel's crackdown on Palestinian protesters and civilians in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.

Israeli security forces had moved in on Palestinian worshippers there towards the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

They had also sought to quell protests against the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in the east Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers.

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded more than 1,900 people in 11 days starting May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, medics say. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded.

The UN Human Rights Council will hold a special session focused on Israel Thursday, to consider launching a broad, international investigation into abuses during the violence.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online. 

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