The United States will make “significant contributions” to rebuilding Gaza and reopening its consulate in Jerusalem following the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on the first day of his first official visit to region.
Speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Blinken said the United States would “work to ensure that Hamas does not benefit” from the aid.
Blinken’s meeting with Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials marked the first stop on a trip to the Middle East.
His visit comes on the eve of the worst violence in years between Israel and Hamas. Israeli attacks during the recent conflict killed at least 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, according to Hamas health officials. At least 12 people in Israel, including two children, were killed by Palestinian militant fire from Gaza, according to the Israeli army and emergency services, CNN reports.
Israel and Hamas agreed on a ceasefire on Friday, after 11 days of conflict.
Speaking Tuesday, Blinken said he and Netanyahu had a detailed discussion about Israel’s security needs, including supplying the Iron Dome air defense system with missile interceptors.
Blinken also spoke about the right of Israelis and Palestinians, who he said “equally deserve to live in safety and security, to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity and democracy, to be treated with dignity”, but he did not specifically mention the two-state solution or suggest that comprehensive peace negotiations were imminent.
Blinken also met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, after which he announced that the Biden administration would reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem and provide $ 5.5 million in immediate aid to Gaza and additional new aid to the Palestinian people.
Blinken said the opening of the consulate, which closed during the Trump administration and serves as the top diplomatic post for US-Palestinian relations, is an important way for the US to “engage and provide support to the Palestinian people.”
The US is working with the UN, the international community, the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government to assist in the recovery and relief efforts in Gaza. Blinken said the efforts were “urgent” and that the United States would work with partners to ensure that Hamas did not benefit from the reconstruction efforts.
In addition to immediate disaster relief, the Biden administration is providing $ 75 million in development and economic assistance to the Palestinians this year and $ 32 million to UNRWA’s urgent humanitarian appeal.
The Trump administration shut down economic aid to the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA, and the Biden administration has already pledged to resume that support.
Blinken also said the United States welcomed the ceasefire, but said it was “not enough.”
He said the latest round of violence was symptomatic of “a larger set of issues we need to address if we are to prevent it from happening.”