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Blinken pledges US help to rebuild Gaza

May 25, 2021

The US secretary of state met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowing to "rally international support'' while working to address Gaza's "grave humanitarian situation."

Antony Blinken met with Benjamin Netanyahu
Blinken met with Netanyahu in Jerusalem as part of a three-day trip to the region.Image: Menahem Kahana/AP/picture alliance

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed on Tuesday to help rebuild Gaza after an 11-day conflict between Israel and Hamas left thousands of people of homeless.

Blinken was speaking after talks in Jerusalem with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Washington's top diplomat said tackling the humanitarian situation would be key to making an Egyptian-brokered truce hold.

"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 degrading humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild," Blinken told journalists.

He said that the United States would announce pledges to help rebuild vital infrastructure, but promised that no funds would benefit Hamas, which Washington has labeled as a terrorist organization.

"We'll work with our partners closely to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance," Blinken said.

He later announced that the Biden administration will ask the US Congress for $75 million (€61 million) in development and economic assistance for the Palestinians.

Israel tells Hamas to stick to cease-fire

Netanyahu praised US President Joe Biden "firmly supporting Israel's right of self-defense" during the conflict that left more than 250 people dead.

But Netanyahu warned Palestinian militants that the country's military would strike back if the cease-fire is breached.

"We, too, will give meaning to our commitment to our self-defence: if Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful," he said.

The long-serving prime minister, who enjoyed a close relationship with Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump, said the pair also discussed how to bolster the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Iron Dome, which is financed with US assistance, detects rockets that are fired into Israel and intercepts them before they can cause harm.

Blinken Mideast tour aims to bolster Gaza cease-fire: Tania Krämer reports

What's on Blinken's agenda

After his visit to Israel, Blinken moved on to Ramallah, before holding meetings in Cairo and Amman. 

He held talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and was also scheduled to meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and Jordan's King Abdullah.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Blinken's Middle East visit is aimed at firming up the ceasefire between Israel and HamasImage: Alex Brandon/AP Photo/pciture alliance

Speaking after his meeting with Abbas, Blinken said the US would also provide $5.5 million in immediate disaster assistance for Gaza and $32 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — a UN body that was set up to help Palestinian refugees.

He also pledged to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem, which in previous years had served as an autonomous office dealing with relations with the Palestinians.

The Trump administration had downgraded its role before moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

More than 60 children dead after 11-day conflict

The foreign minister of Egypt, whose country had brokered the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas,  was also making diplomatic rounds in an attempt to shore up the agreed calm.

Israeli strikes on Gaza this month killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded almost 2,000 people, the Gaza health ministry said.

Rockets and other fire coming from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel — including one child and an Arab-Israeli teenager, an Israeli soldier, one Indian, and two Thai nationals, medics said. Some 357 people in Israel were injured.

Israel and Hamas have so far been keeping to an agreed cease-fire that came into effect early Friday.

Correction: A previous photo caption in this story gave the wrong location.

jf,jsi/nm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)