United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said during a visit in Israel Tuesday that the US will give aid for Israeli security as well as for the “grave humanitarian situation” in Gaza, at the start of a diplomatic Middle East trip to bolster last week’s cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
After meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, Blinken told reporters that the United States will rally international support to help Palestinians in Gaza but ensure the militant group Hamas doesn’t benefit from the aid.
The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire took effect Friday and ended 11 days of deadly fighting between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist group. The Israeli bombing campaign killed more than 230 people, mostly Palestinians.
After meeting with Netanyahu, Blinken was scheduled to meet Tuesday with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and then separately Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the West Bank.
Blinken will not meet any Hamas leaders during the trip. Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group, controls the Gaza Strip while the Palestinian Authority operates in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Blinken landed at Ben Guiron International Airport near Jerusalem early Tuesday and is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Middle East since President Joe Biden took office.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Netanyahu, Blinken said Biden sent him to work for peace in the region and review reconstruction and humanitarian needs in Gaza.
He said during remarks to the press that the United States wants to shore up the cease-fire “with the recognition that losses on both sides were profound.”
The United States, he added, is committed to replenishing Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system, which stopped most of the Hamas rockets from landing.
To prevent more violence, Blinken said Biden wants both sides to use “space” created by the cease-fire to “address the underlying issues” and added that rebuilding Palestinian areas in Gaza should be a priority.
Blinken promised to outline more U.S. aid to Palestinians later Tuesday.
Earlier this year, Biden’s administration restored more than $200 million in U.S. aid to Palestinians, most through the United Nations refugee program.
Netanyahu thanked Blinken for U.S. support for Israel, but warned that he’s ready to act if Hamas breaks the cease-fire.
“If Hamas breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful,” he told reporters. “We have discussed ways of how to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament with weapons and means of aggression.”
The recent violence was prompted by evictions of Palestinians from the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. Dozens of Palestinian families are being moved out of the neighborhood by Jewish settlers, which has drawn protests from both sides.