U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks about climate change at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland, April 19, 2021.
Jacquelyn Martin | Pool | Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on a Middle East mission on Tuesday that Washington would rally support to rebuild Gaza as part of efforts to bolster a ceasefire between its Hamas Islamist rulers and Israel.
But Blinken made clear that the United States intended to ensure that Hamas, which it regards as a terrorist organization, did not benefit from the humanitarian aid – a potentially difficult task in an enclave over which it has a strong grip.
Blinken began his regional visit in Jerusalem, where he held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli leader, speaking to reporters with the top U.S. diplomat at his side, threatened a “very powerful response” if Hamas renewed cross-border rocket strikes.
The truce, brokered by Egypt and coordinated with the United States, began on Friday after 11 days of the worst fighting between Palestinian militants and Israel in years. Now in its fifth day, it has been holding.
“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,” Blinken said.
“And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild.”
The United States, he said, would work to rally international support around that effort and make its own “significant contributions”, to be announced later in the day.
“We will work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance,” Blinken said about the group.
In tandem with Blinken’s mission, Israeli authorities said they were allowing fuel, medicine and food earmarked for Gaza’s private sector to enter the territory for the first time since the hostilities began on May 10.
Blinken was also due to meet Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank later in the day and visit Cairo and Amman.
But U.S. officials have suggested it was too early for wider peace talks between Israel, in political flux after four inconclusive elections in two years, and the Palestinians, divided by enmity between Hamas and Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas.