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Blinken wraps up Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce in Jordan

'Securing the ceasefire was important, particularly because of the devastating toll violence took on families on both sides,' Blinken told reporters after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman

AFP , Wednesday 26 May 2021
Blinken/King Abdullah
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II at Bayt Al-Urdon in the Jordanian capital Amman on May 26, 2021. AFP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken Wednesday wrapped up a Mideast tour to bolster an Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza, calling for regional cooperation to avoid more "harrowing violence".

Blinken met with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders during the two days of talks, throwing Washington's support behind the truce that ended 11 days of heavy Israeli bombing of Gaza. 

"Securing the ceasefire was important, particularly because of the devastating toll violence took on families on both sides," Blinken told reporters after meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman, his final stop.

"We see the ceasefire not as an end, but as a beginning of something to build on."

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.

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

The "most urgent thing is humanitarian assistance for the people in Gaza", Blinken said Wednesday, listing water, sanitation and electricity as immediate needs, ahead of support for longer-term reconstruction.

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".

"Our meetings today in Cairo and Amman -- indeed, this whole trip -- reflect a fundamental reality," Blinken said. "If we want to avoid a return to the harrowing violence of recent weeks, the countries of this region are going to have to help and support one another."

On top of that, he said 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.

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

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

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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