But the mission made little progress in resolving deeper issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including tensions in occupied East Jerusalem which played a key role in triggering the latest violence.
After two days of talks with Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli and Palestinian officials, Blinken admitted that any resumption of peace talks was a long way off.
In the meantime, he said he had made progress towards the more modest goals of cementing the ceasefire and rebuilding Gaza, which suffered widespread destruction as Israel bombed the territory from the air, lands and seas for 11 days.
“We see the ceasefire, not as an end, but as a beginning, something to build on,” Blinken told reporters on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital of Amman, where he met King Abdullah II. .
Previously, he was in Egypt for talks with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt has long-standing relations with both parties to the conflict and played a key role in negotiating the ceasefire after 11 days of violence, in coordination with the United States.
“We had in Egypt a real and effective partner in dealing with the violence, ending it fairly quickly,” Blinken said in Cairo after a meeting with al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and the head of intelligence. Abbas Kamel.
The United States and Egypt “were now working closely together to build something positive,” he said.
Egypt, said Blinken, is vital to the common aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis to “live in safety and security for the benefit of equal measures of freedom, opportunity and dignity.”
In Jordan, King Abdullah told Blinken on Wednesday that he welcomed the administration’s decision to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem, state media said.
Blinken, however, said it would take some time to complete the move, which he announced on Tuesday.
The Jerusalem consulate had served as a de facto embassy for Palestinians until former President Donald Trump shut it down in 2019.
Blinken also reportedly said the Jordanian monarch, whose Hashemite dynasty has custody of Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, was instrumental in negotiating the deal to end the fighting.
He also said that aid had started arriving in the Gaza Strip as part of a campaign to aid reconstruction in the devastated areas of the enclave.
Aid to Gaza
Blinken arrived in Egypt after stops in Jerusalem and Ramallah on Tuesday, when he pledged the United States would provide further aid to help rebuild the Gaza Strip, including $ 5.5 million in disaster relief and nearly $ 33 million for the Palestinian UN aid agency there, after hundreds of devastating Israeli airstrikes.
Speaking in Amman, he said Washington intends to ensure that Hamas, which is listed by Washington as a “terrorist organization”, does not receive humanitarian aid.
“In the coming days, I will consult extensively with the Gulf countries and other partners to ensure that we all contribute to the recovery, to the stability and to the reduction of tensions,” he said.
Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza and has security contacts with Hamas, is likely to play a role in delivering aid, a senior US State Department official said earlier.
Meanwhile, Qatar also announced Wednesday that it will provide $ 500 million for the reconstruction of Gaza.
“The State of Qatar announces $ 500 million in support for the reconstruction of Gaza,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said in a tweet on Wednesday.
“We will continue to support our brothers in Palestine to achieve a just and lasting solution by establishing their independent state.”
In Gaza, Hamas chief Yehiyeh Sinwar told reporters on Wednesday that the group welcomed reconstruction aid, as long as it did not come from Israel, and had no objection to international surveillance.
“I underline our commitment to Hamas not to take a single penny for reconstruction or humanitarian issues,” he said.
Sinwar, who has close ties to the group’s armed wing, said Hamas was receiving sufficient military aid from outside sources – led by Iran.
“When I said that we do not accept aid money, it is because we have comfortable sources of funding to cover our activities,” he said.
He also criticized Blinken for trying to strengthen the Palestinian Authority at the expense of Hamas. “They are trying to add more fuel to the Palestinian division fire,” Sinwar said.
Blinken said on Tuesday that the United States was trying to bolster the rival government of President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Palestinian Authority now administers self-governing areas in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Abbas has been largely sidelined by recent events, is deeply unpopular at home, and has little influence in Gaza.
The worst exchange of fire in years between Israel and armed Palestinian groups in the enclave began on May 10 after Israeli security forces attacked the compound of Al-Aqsa Mosque, injuring hundreds of Palestinians.
Tensions had been mounting in East Jerusalem for several weeks over Israel’s maintenance of order in the region during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the threat of forced eviction of Palestinian families to make way for Jewish settlers.
In 11 days of fighting, Israeli airstrikes and artillery fire on Gaza killed 254 Palestinians, including 66 children, and injured more than 1,900 people, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Rockets and other fire from Gaza killed 12 people in Israel, including two children, doctors said. Some 357 people in Israel were injured.
The truce remains tenuous because tensions are still high in Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian families has not yet been resolved.
On Wednesday, an Israeli court postponed its ruling on an appeal by Palestinian families facing forced displacement of their homes in East Jerusalem’s Silwan district.
In his remarks after his meeting with Blinken on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu barely mentioned the Palestinians, warning of a “very powerful” response if Hamas breaks the ceasefire while expressing support for development economy in the West Bank.
At the end of his trip, Blinken said repairing Gaza would require the cooperation of all key players.
“It is truly incumbent on all parties, once again, to avoid taking steps that could potentially re-ignite this cycle of violence,” he said.