US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to the West Bank on Sunday, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The US State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller cited security reasons for not disclosing details of the visit in advance.
During the meeting, Blinken emphasised the US’s commitment to ensuring humanitarian aid to Gaza and stressed the importance of halting violence against Palestinians. He also called for the restoration of calm in the West Bank and accountability for those perpetrating extremist violence, referring to the Israeli settlers’ ongoing pogroms against Palestinian locals.
President Abbas expressed his deep concern over the situation in Gaza, describing it as “genocide by the Israeli war machine”. He urged an immediate end to the conflict and emphasised the need for urgent humanitarian aid.
Protests broke out in Ramallah against Blinken’s visit, with demonstrators accusing the US of supporting the ongoing conflict. The Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party Bassam Salihi said many Palestinians view the US administration as being complicit in the conflict.
The conflict in Gaza continues to escalate, with the death toll reaching 9,770, including over 4,000 children, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Recent Israeli air strikes have targeted refugee camps, resulting in significant casualties and displacement. The Bureji refugee camp in central Gaza was hit, causing the death of at least 13 individuals. This camp, housing around 46,000 residents, had been targeted previously. The UN reports that 1.5 million people in Gaza are now internally displaced.
In the midst of this situation, Blinken reiterated Washington’s stance on “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza, aiming to protect civilians while allowing Israel to address its concerns regarding Hamas. This position has faced criticism from regional leaders, including those of Egypt and Jordan, who are demanding an immediate ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remained firm in his stance against a ceasefire, emphasising that operations will continue until Hamas is defeated. Israel asserts that its operations are targeting Hamas assets and fighters, accusing the group of using civilians as shields. Critics, however, argue that the strikes are disproportionate given the civilian casualties.
Separately, Haaretz reported that the Israeli army is considering plans for a ground invasion into Gaza, where Israeli forces have intensified their encirclement.
In related news, Scotland’s First Minister Hamza Yusuf announced the safe return of his Palestinian in-laws from Gaza. While expressing relief, Yusuf emphasised the challenges faced by those still in the conflict zone and pledged his continued advocacy for peace in the region.