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US says it will aid Gaza without helping Hamas

The US secretary of state, who is on a tour of the region, has pledged to ‘rally international support’ to help the impoverished coastal territory.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi,
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is greeted by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi,
Image: Alex Brandon

Updated May 25th 2021, 12:49 PM

US SECRETARY OF State Antony Blinken has vowed to “rally international support” to aid Gaza following a devastating war, as he began a regional tour to shore up last week’s ceasefire.

Blinken, who spoke after meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the US would work to address the “grave humanitarian situation” in the coastal territory but would also ensure that Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers do not benefit from reconstruction assistance.

The 11-day war between Israel and Hamas killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory.

The truce that came into effect on Friday has so far held, but it did not address any of the underlying issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something Blinken acknowledged after meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild,” he said.

“The United States will work to rally international support around that effort while also making our own significant contributions.”

He added that the US would work with its partners “to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance”.

Blinken will not be meeting with Hamas, which does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the US consider a terrorist organisation.

He addressed the larger conflict, saying: “We believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity.”

But the top US diplomat faces the same obstacles that have stifled a wider peace process for more than a decade, including a hawkish Israeli leadership, Palestinian divisions and deeply rooted tensions surrounding Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The Biden administration had initially hoped to avoid being drawn into the intractable conflict and focus on other foreign policy priorities before the violence broke out.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is fighting for his political life after a fourth inconclusive election in two years. He faces mounting criticism from Israelis who say he ended the offensive prematurely, without forcibly halting rocket attacks or dealing a heavier blow to Hamas.

Netanyahu hardly mentioned the Palestinians in his remarks, in which he warned of a “very powerful” response if Hamas breaks the ceasefire.

He spoke of “building economic growth” in the occupied West Bank, but said there will be no peace until the Palestinians recognise Israel as a “Jewish state”. The Palestinians have long objected to that language, saying it undermines the rights of Israel’s own Palestinian minority.

Blinken, who said earlier that his trip to the Middle East would aim to support “efforts to solidify a ceasefire”, was set to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, though he was not to meet Hamas.

He will then travel on to neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.

US President Joe Biden said Blinken would meet “with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security,” as well as seeking to rebuild ties with the Palestinians.

mideast-gaza-beit-hanoun-destroyed-buildings Palestinians are seen near destroyed buildings in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun. Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Blinken reaffirmed US support for a two-state solution as the only way to provide hope to Israelis and Palestinians that they can live “with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity.”

His remarks about “equal measures” for Israelis and Palestinians seemed to shift the tone from Donald Trump’s administration, which cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and unveiled a Middle East peace plan with strong Israeli backing but no support from Palestinians.

Israeli air strikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from May 10, the health ministry in Gaza says.

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Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian and two Thais, medics say.

Some 357 people in Israel have been wounded.

© – AFP 2021

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