(Photo Credit: Mandel Ngan/AFP)
The US State Department announced on 26 January that US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken will be making a trip to Egypt, Israel, and the occupied West Bank this weekend.
Blinken will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before making his way to Jerusalem and Ramallah early next week.
The visit had been planned weeks in advance, however, Washington is now worried about the security situation between Israelis and Palestinians following Israel’s massacre in Jenin’s refugee camp the same day, which resulted in the deaths of ten Palestinians and was described as one of the “deadliest days in the West bank” since the start of last year.
Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Barbara Leaf said US officials were in contact with Israeli and Palestinian officials following the massacre, in order to calm the situation. Leaf described the Palestinian casualties as “quite regrettable,” but also called the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) sudden decision to halt all cooperation with Israel a “mistake.”
According to Leaf, the PA’s suspension of cooperation with Israel signifies a step backwards, as does the Palestinian intention to take the matter to the UN and International Criminal Court.
Blinken is set to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time since his return to power. Additionally, he will meet with the President of the PA Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah. The goal will be to stress the importance of a two-state solution, and to urge both sides to de-escalate the violence.
Spokesperson for the US State Department Ned Price revealed in a statement that Blinken would also emphasize the importance of preserving the status quo of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and compound.
In the early hours of 27 January, the Palestinian resistance factions in the Gaza Strip fired two rockets toward the Israeli settlement of Ashkelon in retaliation for the Jenin massacre – the Iron Dome system managed to intercept both.
Hours later, in response, Israeli warplanes targeted several sites in Gaza with 15 missiles, according to a WAFA news agency correspondent. The strikes caused extensive material damage that resulted in a power outage.
Following Israel’s brutal and deadly raid, Jewish supremacist National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir called for the establishment of an Israeli National Guard to prepare for an “imminent” war with Hamas.
Earlier this month, on 18 January, Egypt, Jordan, and the PA called on Israel to stop its extreme actions in the West Bank as well as its provocative incursions into the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound by maintaining the status quo in Jerusalem. They also called on the international community to provide protection for the Palestinians.
Cairo has played an integral role as a mediator between Hamas in Gaza and Israel for decades now.