Blinken to tour Middle East amid Israeli violence in West Bank
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Egypt, Israel and the Occupied West Bank this weekend in his first trip to the Middle East this year.
The trip comes amid an escalation in Israeli violence against Palestinians, US concerns over the direction of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new far-right government and ongoing issues with Egypt’s human rights record.
The State Department said Thursday that Blinken would leave Washington on Saturday for stops in Cairo, Jerusalem and Ramallah. The announcement came just hours after an Israeli attack on the occupied West Bank's Jenin refugee camp on Thursday killed nine Palestinians including an elderly woman.
Palestinian officials also said that Israeli forces used tear gas inside a hospital children's ward.
After visiting Cairo for talks on Sunday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Blinken will go to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday to see Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the department said.
“With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to deescalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
After the deadly raid on Jenin took at least nine Palestinian lives, Israel’s defence minister directed forces in the occupied West Bank and on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip to go on heightened alert.
Israel has been ramping up deadly violence against Palestinians this year, killing at least 29 Palestinians in the first 26 days of 2023.
Deadly Israeli raids on cities in the occupied West Bank have been ongoing since March 2022.
Netanyahu's current governing coalition is considered to be the most extreme in Israel's history and includes ministers who have incited violence and racism against Palestinians before.