Blinken leaves to 'solidify' ceasefire between Hamas and Israel amid 'deliberate civilian attacks' on Gaza
The United States' Secretary of State Antony Blinken departs Monday for a Middle East trip aimed at consolidating the ceasefire that brought 11 days of deadly bombardment between Israel and Hamas to a halt.
"Secretary Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel's security," US President Joe Biden said in a statement.
"He will continue our administration's efforts to rebuild ties to, and support for, the Palestinian people and leaders, after years of neglect."
Biden, who came under criticism from many within his own Democratic party for not pushing US ally Israel more publicly to call a ceasefire, has touted his administration's "quiet, relentless diplomacy" to bring about a halt in the fighting.
Blinken's trip, in addition to meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, will take him to Cairo and Amman for consultations with officials there.
In a tweet, Blinken said the trip will aim to support "efforts to solidify a ceasefire".
"The United States has engaged in intensive diplomacy to bring an end to the hostilities and reduce tensions," he added.
Israeli strikes on Gaza this month killed 248 Palestinians, including 66 children, and have wounded over 1,900 people, the Gaza health ministry says.
The assault on the besieged enclave drew worldwide criticism.
Amnesty International's deputy Middle East and North Africa Director Saleh Higazi said the attacks were "brazen deadly attacks on family homes".
He added: "Israel has demonstrated a callous disregard for lives of Palestinian civilians who are already suffering the collective punishment of Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza since 2007."
"Deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian property and infrastructure are war crimes, as are disproportionate attacks," Higazi continued.