Top US diplomat lands in Israel to 'solidify' ceasefire

Top US diplomat lands in Israel to 'solidify' ceasefire

TEL AVIV-Agence France-Presse
Top US diplomat lands in Israel to solidify ceasefire

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Tel Aviv on May 25, days after an Egypt-brokered truce halted fighting between the Jewish state and the Gaza Strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas.

Blinken, who said earlier his trip 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.

U.S. 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.

Blinken on May 23 reaffirmed U.S. 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 Palestine 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.

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.

Blinken’s visit comes as the ceasefire holds, but tensions simmer in Israel and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.