The State Department announced Thursday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit Egypt, Israel, and the West Bank this weekend as the United States expressed concern over an uptick in violence following Israel’s deadliest operation in the West Bank in 20 years.
Blinken’s trip to Israel had been planned for weeks, but his discussions in Jerusalem and Ramallah are expected to be dominated by the Israeli raid on a West Bank refugee camp earlier on Thursday, which the Palestinians claim resulted in the deaths of nine people, including a 61-year-old woman. Later in the day, the Israeli forces also fatally shot a 22-year-old Palestinian.
With President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at odds, notably over the Palestinian conflict, the trip, the second by a senior U.S. national security leader this month, was already anticipated to be tense. The raid on Thursday and the ensuing uproar are anticipated to make the visit even more challenging.
The senior American diplomat in the Middle East stated that the administration was pleading with both parties to defuse tensions following the raid and condemned a declaration by the Palestinians that they would cease all security cooperation with Israel as a result.
In order to underscore the significance of defusing the situation, Barbara Leaf, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said American officials have been in contact with top Israeli and Palestinian officials ever since the event. The civilian deaths reported in Jenin, she said, were “very terrible.”
She added, however, that the Palestinian pledge to take the incident to the UN and the ICC, as well as the Palestinian proclamation that it will halt all security cooperation with Israel in the wake of it, were also errors.
Blinken held a talk with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo this Sunday before going to Jerusalem and Ramallah on Monday and Tuesday to see Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the State Department said.
Price reiterated the “urgent need” for Israelis and Palestinians to “avoid future loss of civilian life” and “work together to improve the security situation in the West Bank” in another statement later on Thursday.
The trip was announced only a few hours after an Israeli operation on alleged terrorists in a refugee camp in the West Bank city of Jenin.
Following the attack, Israel’s defense minister ordered forces to be on high alert in the occupied West Bank and along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip as Hamas, the Islamist militant organization in charge of Gaza, promised retaliation.
Blinken would also stress the significance of keeping the status quo at the volatile holy site in Jerusalem known to Jews as the Temple Mount and to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, where riots have periodically broken out in Ramallah and Jerusalem, Price added.
According to the State Department, Blinken will bring up human rights concerns as well as the precarious security conditions in Sudan and Libya in Egypt.