US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Gazans “must not be forcibly displaced”, speaking on a surprise visit Sunday to the Israeli-occupied West Bank to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
It was the top US diplomat’s first visit to the Palestinian territory since war erupted between Israel and Hamas following the October 7 attack that killed 1,400 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
In Gaza nearly 9,800 people, also mostly civilians, have died in Israel’s retaliatory land, air and sea attack, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
“The Secretary reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza and made clear that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced,” said a summary of the meeting released by the US State Department.
Abbas condemned what he labelled a “genocide” in comments to Blinken, according to the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
“I have no words to describe the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law,” Abbas was quoted as saying.
Blinken flew into Tel Aviv on Sunday morning and travelled in a high-security convoy to the Ramallah headquarters of the Palestinian Authority — the body which, he recently said, should replace the Hamas government in Gaza.
The US Secretary of State is the second high-ranking Western visitor to the West Bank since the war started, following French President Emmanuel Macron.
The unannounced trip came amid sharply rising violence in the West Bank since the outbreak of the war in Gaza.
Blinken and Abbas “discussed efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank, including the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible”, said the State Department.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States remains committed to advancing equal measures of dignity and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike,” it said.
More than 150 Palestinians have been killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers and attacks by Israeli settlers since the start of the war, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Three were killed Sunday in the West Bank, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
Blinken’s meeting with Abbas, whose secular Fatah party is Hamas’s rival, came at a time Washington has heaped political and military support on its ally Israel.
Blinken has advocated “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza on his recent tour of the Middle East, to protect civilians and ease aid deliveries in the densely populated territory.
The United States has advocated a two-state solution as the only path out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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