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World Blinken in Israel on Mideast tour to shore up Gaza truce

08:40  25 may  2021
08:40  25 may  2021 Source:   msn.com

Gaza's Lone Power Station Could Run Out of Fuel in Coming Days as Conflict With Israel Continues

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JERUSALEM (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel at the start of a Middle East tour aimed at shoring up the Gaza cease-fire.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

He will face 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.

The 11-day Gaza war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused widespread destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Blinken is expected to focus on coordinating reconstruction without engaging with Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, who are considered terrorists by Israel and Western countries.

Blinken brings Biden's anti-Trump climate policy to Iceland

  Blinken brings Biden's anti-Trump climate policy to Iceland REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — On a trip overshadowed by the crisis in the Middle East, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday touted the Biden administration’s abrupt shift in its predecessor’s climate policies as he visited Iceland for talks with senior officials from the world’s Arctic nations. In Reykjavik for a meeting of foreign ministers of the eight members of the Arctic Council, Blinken heralded President Joe Biden’s return to the Paris climate accord and determination to combat climate change. Yet the worsening violence between Israel and the Palestinians hung over the discussions.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to depart Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, May 24, 2021. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives to depart Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, May 24, 2021. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The truce that came into effect Friday has so far held, but it did not address any of the underlying issues.

Blinken, who landed at Ben Gurion International Airport early Tuesday, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the region since President Joe Biden assumed office. He was welcomed on the tarmac by Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi and other officials.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool) © Provided by Associated Press Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves as he departs, Monday, May 24, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Blinken is en route to the Middle East. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, Pool)

The administration had hoped to extricate the U.S. from the region’s intractable conflicts and focus on competition with China and climate change. But like so many of its predecessors, it was pulled back into the Middle East by another outbreak of violence.

Israeli cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas amid 2nd week of violence

  Israeli cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas amid 2nd week of violence Israeli cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas amid 2nd week of violence The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement Thursday evening stating that the Political Security Cabinet accepted a recommendation for a "bilateral cease-fire without any conditions.

He will begin his visit in Israel, where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is fighting for his political life after a fourth inconclusive election in two years. Netanyahu faces mounting criticism from Israelis who say he ended the offensive prematurely, without forcibly halting Palestinian rocket attacks or dealing a heavier blow to Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

The war was triggered by weeks of clashes in Jerusalem between Israeli police and Palestinian protesters in and around the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a flashpoint holy site. The protests were directed at Israel’s policing of the area during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threatened eviction of dozens of Palestinian families by Jewish settlers.

The evictions were put on hold just before the Gaza fighting erupted, but the legal process is set to resume in the coming weeks. Police briefly clashed with protesters at Al-Aqsa on Friday, hours after the cease-fire came into effect. The site is revered by Jews and Muslims, and has seen several outbreaks of Israeli-Palestinian violence over the years.

Cease-fire in Gaza: What we know about the Israel, Hamas agreement

  Cease-fire in Gaza: What we know about the Israel, Hamas agreement What's next after Israel's cease-fire? How many died in the conflict? How did it start? These questions and more answered.The move followed growing pressure from President Joe Biden's administration and others foreign leaders to de-escalate the conflict – which wrought far more devastation in Gaza than Israel and killed significantly more Palestinians. Hamas fired rockets indiscriminately into civilian areas in Israel while Israel pounded Gaza with airstrikes.

Palestinian activists, right, speak with an Israeli police officer as two activists' IDs are checked after they started to repair a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. One activist was arrested after re-painting the Arabic phrase, © Provided by Associated Press Palestinian activists, right, speak with an Israeli police officer as two activists' IDs are checked after they started to repair a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. One activist was arrested after re-painting the Arabic phrase, "welcome to the resilient neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah." (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Netanyahu is unlikely to make any public concessions on Al-Aqsa or the evictions because it would be seen as giving in to Hamas’ demands.

Adding to the tensions, an Israeli soldier and a civilian were stabbed and wounded in east Jerusalem on Monday before police shot and killed the assailant in what they described as a terrorist attack.

Blinken will not be meeting with the other party to the war, the Islamic militant group Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Instead, he will head to the occupied West Bank to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no power in Gaza and was largely sidelined by recent events.

Israel Opposition Leader Yair Lapid Accuses Netanyahu of Jeopardizing Relationship With U.S.

  Israel Opposition Leader Yair Lapid Accuses Netanyahu of Jeopardizing Relationship With U.S. "After 11 days of this operation, every Israeli citizen will ask themselves: What did the government really want to achieve with this military operation? What is its policy and strategic long-term aim concerning Hamas in Gaza?" Lapid wrote.The U.S. has called for Israel to end the fighting and agree to a cease-fire. Netanyahu has refused the requests, and appears determined to inflict maximum damage against Hamas in a war that could save his political career, the Associated Press reported.

Abbas, who called off the first Palestinian elections in 15 years last month when it appeared his fractured Fatah movement would suffer an embarrassing defeat, is seen by many Palestinians as having lost all legitimacy. A crowd of worshippers at Al-Aqsa chanted against his Palestinian Authority and in support of Hamas on Friday.

Palestinian activists, including Muna ElKurd, center, react as Israeli police approach their friends repairing a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. One activist was arrested after re-painting the Arabic phrase, © Provided by Associated Press Palestinian activists, including Muna ElKurd, center, react as Israeli police approach their friends repairing a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. One activist was arrested after re-painting the Arabic phrase, "Welcome to the resilient neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah." (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

But Abbas is still seen internationally as the representative of the Palestinian people and a key partner in the long-defunct peace process.

Palestinian activists are approached by Israeli police as they repair a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. The activist at right was arrested after re-painting the arabic phrase: © Provided by Associated Press Palestinian activists are approached by Israeli police as they repair a mural that was defaced by a Jewish settler in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Palestinian families face imminent eviction from their homes by Israeli settlers, Monday, May 24, 2021. The activist at right was arrested after re-painting the arabic phrase: "welcome to the resilient neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah." (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Blinken will also visit neighboring Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago and have acted as mediators in the conflict. Egypt succeeded in brokering the Gaza truce after the Biden administration pressed Israel to wind down its offensive.

Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds, Egyptian mediators shuttle between the two sides

  Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds, Egyptian mediators shuttle between the two sides Israel-Hamas ceasefire holds, Egyptian mediators shuttle between the two sidesGAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip held on Saturday as Egyptian mediators pressed on with talks with the two sides on securing longer-term calm, officials said.

Biden announced the visit, saying Blinken would work with regional partners on a “coordinated international effort to ensure immediate assistance reaches Gaza.”

The administration had been roundly criticized for its perceived hands-off initial response to the deadly violence, including from Democratic allies in Congress who demanded it take a tougher line on Israel. Biden repeatedly affirmed what he said was Israel’s right to defend itself from rocket attacks from Gaza.

The administration has defended its response by saying it engaged in intense, but quiet, high-level diplomacy to support a cease-fire.

In an interview with CNN over the weekend, Blinken said the administration is now focused on trying to “build something more positive,” saying Palestinians and Israelis deserve “equal measures of opportunity, of security, of dignity.”

He said the time is not right for an immediate resumption in negotiations, but that steps could be taken to repair the damage from Israeli airstrikes, which destroyed hundreds of homes and damaged infrastructure in Gaza.

An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man casts a shadow against the Jaffa Gate while walking through Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 24, 2021, days after a cease-fire was reached in the 11-day war between Gaza's Hamas rulers and Israel. (AP Photo/David Goldman) © Provided by Associated Press An ultra-Orthodox Jewish man casts a shadow against the Jaffa Gate while walking through Jerusalem's Old City, Monday, May 24, 2021, days after a cease-fire was reached in the 11-day war between Gaza's Hamas rulers and Israel. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The narrow coastal territory, home to more than 2 million Palestinians, has been under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade since Hamas seized power from Abbas’ forces in 2007. Israel says the blockade is needed to keep Hamas from importing arms, while the Palestinians and human rights groups view it as a form of collective punishment.

Hady Amr's Middle East | Opinion .
The Biden administration cozies up to Hamas.During his media appearance with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that rebuilding Hamas-controlled Gaza in the wake of Hamas' latest assault on Israel is the most pressing issue on the agenda.

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