Top US diplomat says rebuilding Gaza should not 'benefit' Hamas

Top US diplomat says rebuilding Gaza should not 'benefit' Hamas
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that Washington would work closely with its partners to ensure Gaza's rulers Hamas would not 'benefit from the reconstruction assistance' after Israel's air campaign wrought destruction on the territory.
3 min read
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu [AFP via Getty]

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said Tuesday that international aid to rebuild Gaza should not benefit its Hamas rulers as he held talks in Israel on firming up a days-old truce.

"We'll work with our partners closely, with all, to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance," Blinken said following talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu warned Israel's response would be "very powerful" if Hamas violated the truce that ended Israel's 11 day bombardment of the besieged Gaza strip.

Blinken, who said earlier his trip would aim to support "efforts to solidify a ceasefire", was scheduled to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas later, though not Hamas, which Washington has designated as a terror group.

He will then travel on to neighbouring Egypt and Jordan.

US President Joe Biden said Blinken would meet "with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel's security," as well as seeking to rebuild ties with the Palestinians.

Blinken on Sunday said US support for a two-state solution is the only way to provide hope to Israelis and Palestinians that they can live "with equal measures of security, of peace and dignity."

His remarks about "equal measures" for Israelis and Palestinians seemed to shift the tone from Donald Trump's administration, which cut aid to the Palestinian Authority and unveiled a Middle East peace plan with strong Israeli backing but slammed by Palestinians.

In Jerusalem Tuesday, he said Israelis and Palestinians faced an uphill struggle to restore trust, after the military assault on Gaza and troop violence in the West Bank.

"There's lots of hard work ahead to restore hope, respect and some trust across the communities," the US top diplomat said.

"But we've seen the alternative and I think that should cause all of us to redouble our efforts to preserve the peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians alike."

Israeli bombardments of Gaza killed 253 Palestinians, including 66 children, and wounded over 1,900 people in 11 days of conflict from 10 May, the health ministry in Gaza says.

Rocket and other fire from Gaza claimed 12 lives in Israel, including one child. Some 357 people in Israel have been wounded.

Mass arrests

Blinken's visit to Israel comes as the ceasefire holds, but tensions continue to simmer.

Hours before Blinken's arrival, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian and Israeli security sources said.

The man was killed during an Israeli arrest raid on the Al-Amara refugee camp near Ramallah, the sources said.

In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli police said an individual was shot dead for the alleged stabbing of two Israeli men. Palestinian news agency WAFA identified the casualty as a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student.

While Palestinians have been implicated in previous attacks, many others have been killed for alleged stabbing attempts, when the use of non-lethal force could have been used to subdue suspected attackers.

Rights groups have also criticised Israel for "extrajudicial killings" when suspected attackers no longer pose an immediate threat.

Between Sunday and Monday nights, Israeli forces rounded up 43 Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.

Israeli police, who operate in East Jerusalem, said late Sunday that they had arrested 1,550 suspects and had charged 150 over the past two weeks in connection with recent events.

The latest military escalation started after Israeli riot police fired rubber bullets at worshippers in Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa mosque compound, Islam's third holiest site.

Israeli forces had moved in on the site toward the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. They had also brutally clamped down on protests against the forced expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in east Jerusalem of Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Jewish settlers.