US secretary of state justifies Israeli violence in Gaza, quotes Jewish text Talmud and reiterates Washington's foreign policy support for Israel after its bombardment of Palestinians.
In his first Middle East tour amid a key moment in the Palestinian-Israeli crisis, Antony Blinken made clear US support for ally Israel stood the test of an 11-day bombardment that some say might have constituted war crimes.
US Secretary of State Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his office in West Jerusalem on Tuesday.
"The US fully supports Israel's right to defend itself," Blinken said, repeating the Biden administration's stance that has left the presidency treading waters as it faced criticism about its silence on deadly Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
Blinken's statement at a joint press conference with Netanyahu did not stray far from US policy on Israeli, promising the premier support for the Iron Dome defence system.
Israel's air strikes and artillery attacks killed at least 248 Palestinians in Gaza in 11 days. Blinken justified the action as self-defence, referring to rocket attacks from the enclave triggered by police violence in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel says 12 people died in those attacks, including one child and one Palestinian.
Blinken promised aid for Gaza, provided it bypassed the enclave's government, a stance some critics have called "delusional".
Netanyahu at the meeting tried to shore up the relationship by thanking the US for its support against "anti-Zionism that is actually anti-Semitism".
Blinken, who landed at Ben Gurion International Airport early Tuesday, is the highest-ranking US official to visit the region since President Joe Biden assumed office.
Blinken will not be meeting with the other party in the crisis, the Hamas, which does not recognise Israel’s claims over occupied Palestinian territories.
Instead, will head to Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has no power in Gaza.
Spoke to UAE FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed today and thanked him for the UAE's support for the ceasefire between Israel, Hamas, and other parties in Gaza. I also discussed the importance of reconstruction efforts in Gaza.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) May 24, 2021
Blinken will also visit neighboring Egypt and Jordan, which made peace with Israel decades ago and have acted as mediators in the conflict.
Earlier, Blinken said in a Twitter post that his visit to Jerusalem will focus on the “road ahead” following the recent cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian factions and will seek “to build a better future for Israelis and Palestinians.”
At least 284 Palestinians were killed in Palestinian territories by the occupying forces since April against the backdrop of an Israeli court verdict to evict Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem.
The 11-day brutal aggression, the fiercest from Israel in years, came to a halt on Friday under an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.
READ MORE: Hamas-Israel ceasefire holds for fourth day
Israel today declared its intent to arrest 500 Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in the next 48 hours. They are all over Lydd right now. This is your democracy, this is what happens when you silence us and still say “Israeli Arabs.” This is ‘communal strife’ #Palestine— مريم البرغوثي (@MariamBarghouti) May 23, 2021
Blinken's visit comes as the ceasefire holds but tensions simmer in Israel and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israeli police said an attacker stabbed two young Israeli men in Jerusalem on Monday before police shot him dead.
The army said one of those wounded was a soldier.
Palestinian news agency WAFA identified the casualty as a 17-year-old Palestinian high school student from annexed east Jerusalem.
In the night of Sunday to Monday, Israeli forces rounded up 43 Palestinians in a crackdown in occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Palestinian Prisoners Club said.
Israeli police, who operate in occupied East Jerusalem, said late on Sunday that they had arrested 1,550 suspects and had charged 150 over the past two weeks over "violent events".
Peace talks have stalled since 2014, including over the status of occupied East Jerusalem and illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.