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Blinken to visit Middle East amid heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine

January 26, 2023 at 5:08 pm

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a speech in Washington, DC [Nathan Posner – Anadolu Agency]

US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank from Sunday to Tuesday to discuss heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians as well as the war in Ukraine with regional leaders, the State Department said.

The top US diplomat’s visit was announced just hours after Israeli commandos killed nine Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials, , stirring fear of further flare-ups after the largest single death toll in years of fighting.

In meetings with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Palestinian Authority, President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken will discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations and preserving the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, department spokesperson, Ned Price, said in a statement on Thursday.

“With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” Price said.

READ: Israel Occupation Forces kill 9 Palestinians, wound 20 others in Jenin

He said Blinken would also discuss the importance of upholding the status quo around the Haram Al-Sharif or Temple Mount, where a storming  by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the far-right Security Minister in Netanyahu’s newly elected government, recently stirred outrage among Palestinians. The decades-old status quo allows only Muslim worship at the compound, a site also revered by Jews.

Blinken’s trip comes on the heels of a visit by White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, to Israel last week, where he discussed the war in Ukraine and concerns over US regional adversary Iran’s support for Russia’s invasion through the provision of drones.

While Israel has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it has limited its assistance to Kyiv to humanitarian aid and protective gear.

In Cairo, Blinken will meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and other Egyptian officials, aimed at strengthening the two countries’ strategic partnership and bolstering their shared support for elections in Libya and talks to form a civilian government in Sudan after a 2021 military coup, Price said.

READ: Israel Army says its surveillance drone downed during offensive in Jenin, West Bank