Blinken’s long-planned visit to Israel has taken on a new urgency amid the spiralling violence.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for “urgent steps” to calm spiralling violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after high-level talks in Jerusalem.
Washington’s top diplomat travelled to Jerusalem on the second leg of his Middle East tour, after meeting Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el Sisi and foreign minister in Cairo.
Following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, Blinken urged “all sides now to take urgent steps to restore calm, to deescalate”.
“We want to make sure that there’s an environment in which we can, I hope, at some point, create the conditions where we can start to restore a sense of security for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said.
Israel is reeling from an attack on Friday that killed seven civilians outside a synagogue in occupied East Jerusalem, a day after the deadliest army raid in years in the occupied West Bank claimed 10 Palestinian lives.
Following what Blinken described as a “very candid” discussion with Netanyahu, the top US diplomat is due to meet Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen.
Blinken envoy will also travel to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank for talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.
Abbas met with CIA chief William Burns in Ramallah late Sunday to discuss the “dangerous developments”, said the official Palestinian news agency Wafa. The US embassy declined to comment.
The fatal shooting was preceded by the Israeli forces’ deadliest operation in the occupied West Bank in years.
Ten people were killed on Thursday in the densely populated Jenin refugee camp, in an Israeli raid.
The military later hit sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in response to rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.
Netanyahu’s cabinet has vowed a tough response with home demolitions and other measures.
His government is also planning to rescind the rights to social security benefits of attackers’ relatives, and steps to make it easier for Israeli citizens to obtain permits to carry firearms.
35 Palestinians, 6 Israeli killed in 2023
In the latest bloodshed, Israeli troops on Monday killed a Palestinian driver in the occupied West Bank, officials on both sides said, with the army saying the car had hit a soldier’s leg before speeding off.
Since the start of the year, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has claimed the lives of 35 Palestinian adults and children — including attackers, militants and civilians.
Over the same period six Israeli civilians, including a child, and one Ukrainian civilian have been killed. All were shot dead in the attack on Friday outside the synagogue in an occupied East Jerusalem settlement.
US relations with Israel
Blinken’s Israel visit is part of the Biden administration’s efforts to engage quickly with Netanyahu, who had tense relations with the previous Democratic president Barack Obama.
While there, Blinken reiterated US support for a Palestinian state, a prospect few expect to advance under the new Israeli government.
Netanyahu, a veteran leader, returned to power late last year at the helm of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.
In Jerusalem, Blinken said he discussed with Netanyahu the preservation of the status quo at the flashpoint Al Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem.