WASHINGTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) – Washington is concerned that the security situation between Israelis and Palestinians could worsen ahead of Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the Middle East starting on Sunday, a US official said, after a raid fatal to Israel. forces in the occupied West Bank on Thursday.
The US’s top diplomat will travel to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank amid spiraling tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.
The visit was announced just hours after Israeli commanders killed seven gunmen and two civilians in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials, the single largest death toll in years of fighting.
Barbara Leaf, the US State Department’s chief Middle East official, said the reported civilian deaths were “deeply regrettable.”
“And then obviously things could get worse in terms of security,” Leaf told reporters in a telephone briefing, adding that she had spoken several times with the US Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, as well as officials Israelis and Palestinians, Thursday. morning
The United States was urging de-escalation and coordination between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, Leaf said, even as the Palestinian Authority said it was ending cooperation with Israel after the raid.
Blinken’s visit is his first since Netanyahu’s new right-wing government came to power after elections in November, sparking concern at home and abroad given some coalition members’ opposition to Palestinian statehood and views another hard.
Announcing Blinken’s visit, the State Department said that in meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Blinken will discuss the importance of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other issues another.
The department’s spokesman, Ned Price, said in a statement that Blinken would also discuss the importance of maintaining the status quo around the Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, where a visit was made by Itamar Ben-Gvir, the new security minister. far right, recent rage. among the Palestinians. The decades-old status quo allows only Muslim worship at the compound, a site also revered by Jews.
Blinken’s trip comes as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan visited Israel last week, where he discussed the war in Ukraine and concerns about US regional foe Iran’s support for the Russian invasion by supplying drones.
Although Israel condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it limited its assistance to Kyiv to humanitarian aid and defense equipment.
In Cairo, Blinken will meet with President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and other Egyptian officials, focused on strengthening the two countries’ strategic partnership and strengthening their shared support for elections in Libya and talks to establish a civilian government in Sudan after after a military coup in 2021. , Price said.
Reporting by Simon Lewis; Additional reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Jonathan Oatis and Daniel Wallis
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