WASHINGTON – Foreign Minister Antony Blinken travels to the Middle East to urge Israelis, Palestinians and regional actors to build on last week’s ceasefire in Gaza by laying the groundwork for resuming protracted peace talks.
President Joe Biden says Blinken is leaving on Monday for brief visits to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt. It will be the Biden government’s highest face-to-face meeting on the crisis that broke out this month.
The Biden government has been sharply criticized for its supposed response to the deadly violence, including from democratic allies in Congress who have called for a tougher stance on Israel and its response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.
During the conflict, the Biden government claimed Israel had “the right to defend itself” while saying it was working on back-channel ways to advocate de-escalating violence in the region.
Israel and Hamas agreed on a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip on Thursday after 11 days of fighting in the region. The ceasefire was agreed the day after Biden, in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, urged de-escalation of violence and the Israelis to find a way to a ceasefire.
More than 220 Palestinians, including more than 60 children, had been killed in the fighting, according to CNN. CNN added that 12 Israelis had been killed during that time, including two children.
While Hamas – a Palestinian fundamentalist military operation that the State Department has labeled a terrorist organization – fired thousands of rockets at Israel during the conflict, Israeli defense systems shot down most of those rockets.