U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday as part of Washington’s efforts to build on the Gaza truce, a source briefed on the planning reported on Saturday.
U.S., Palestinian and Israeli officials have not published Blinken’s full itinerary. The State Department announced his visit on Thursday, saying he would “discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians”.
Blinken’s trip to the Middle East would include visit to Egypt, which mediated the Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas-led Palestinian militants, as well as to Jordan, the source added.
Hamas and Israel both claimed victory on Friday after their forces ended 11 days of fighting, but humanitarian officials warned that the damage caused to Gaza would take years to rebuild.
The White House said the United States had received assurances from the relevant parties that they were committed to the ceasefire.
As Israelis and Palestinians began to gauge the scale of the damage, one Gazan noted that his neighborhood looked as if it had been hit by a tsunami. “How can the world call itself civilized?” Abu Ali asked, as he stood near the rubble of a 14-storey tower block.
Palestinian officials said reconstruction costs would be worth tens of millions of dollars, while economists said the fighting could curb Israel’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Five more bodies were pulled from Gaza’s rubble, taking the death toll to 248, including 66 children, with over 1,900 injured.
According to the Israeli military, an Israeli soldier had been killed as well as 12 civilians, including 2 children. Hundreds were treated for wounds after rocket salvoes sparked panic and sent people as far away as Tel Aviv rushing into shelters.
Margaret Harris, World Health Organization spokeswoman, said Gaza’s health facilities were in danger of being overwhelmed by the thousands of injuries.
Harris called for immediate access into the Gaza Strip for health supplies and personnel. “The real challenges are the closures,” she told a virtual U.N. briefing.