U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed on Tuesday to “rally international support” to aid Gaza following a devastating war there while keeping any assistance out of the hands of its militant Hamas rulers, as he began a regional tour to shore up last week’s cease-fire.
The 11-day fighting 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 U.S. would work with its partners “to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance.”
Mr. Blinken will not be meeting with Hamas, which does not recognise Israel’s right to exist and which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist organisation.
Mr. Blinken 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 he 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.