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Blinken visits Israel, calls for ‘urgent measures’ to curb tension with Palestinians


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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, head of American diplomacy, called this Monday (30), in Jerusalem, for “urgent measures” to curb the new spiral of tension between Israelis and Palestinians.

The visit to Israel marks the second stage of a lightning tour of the Middle East that began in Egypt and was foreseen for a long time. The journey, however, has taken a new turn with the recent bloody escalation in the region. “We call on all parties to take urgent action to regain calm and [iniciar] a de-escalation,” Blinken said in an interview with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

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“We want to ensure that there is an environment in which we can, at some point, create the conditions to start restoring a sense of security for both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The situation has sharply worsened in recent days after shelling, shooting and air strikes and punitive measures, leaving dead on both sides. After meeting with Netanyahu, the US secretary is due to meet with his Israeli counterpart, Eli Cogen, and with the president, Isaac Herzog.

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Blinken’s agenda also includes a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, in the West Bank, Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967.

Before arriving in Jerusalem, he passed through Cairo, the Egyptian capital, where he called for “calm and the appeasement of tensions”. At a joint press conference, his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shukri, defended a “just solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than ever at a standstill.

Egypt is a historic mediator in this conflict. First Arab nation to sign peace with Israel, in 1979, and neighboring the Gaza Strip, under Israeli blockade for over 15 years, the country receives both Israeli heads of government and leaders of different Palestinian parties.

After the recent attacks on Israel, Netanyahu’s government announced measures to punish relatives of the perpetrators of these acts. Israeli forces have cordoned off the home of relatives of a Palestinian who killed seven people on Friday outside a synagogue in East Jerusalem and plan to destroy the residence.

The attack came a day after an Israeli raid on the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, during which ten Palestinians were killed. In response, rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel. Soon after, the Israeli Army bombed the Palestinian enclave.

On Saturday (28), a Palestinian wounded two Israelis in East Jerusalem, and on Sunday, Israeli security guards killed a Palestinian in the West Bank. On Monday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian in Hebron, in the southern West Bank.

Although the United States and Egypt are important diplomatic players, experts estimate that the US Secretary of State’s room for maneuver is limited. Washington condemned the “atrocious attack” in East Jerusalem and urged Netanyahu and Abbas to “take urgent action to reduce tensions”, according to the State Department. Privately, however, US officials do not hide their frustration with the escalation and stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Although little progress is expected on the de-escalation front, analysts say that Washington is trying to resume contact with Netanyahu. Several US officials have been to Jerusalem recently, and experts are talking about a possible visit by the prime minister to the White House in February.

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