Antony Blinken to travel to Middle East as Israeli-Palestinian tension rises

US Secretary of State expected to meet regional leaders to discuss relations between Palestinians and Israelis and a two-state solution

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet regional leaders during his visit to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank. AP
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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Egypt at the end of the month as a deadly clash between Israeli troops and Palestinians reignited tension in the region.

Israeli troops killed at least 10 people, including an elderly woman, in the Jenin refugee camp on Thursday and wounded 16 in the deadliest Israeli raid in months.

“With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to de-escalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said.

Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said the reported civilian casualties were "quite regrettable".

Ms Leaf, a former US ambassador to the UAE, said President Joe Biden's administration had been encouraging both sides to de-escalate the situation.

She said it would be a mistake for Palestine to suspend security co-operation with Israel.

"Obviously, we don’t think this is the right step to take at this moment," Ms Leaf said.

Mr Blinken is expected to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah to discuss Palestinian-Israeli relations and a two-state solution, among other issues, the State Department said.

He is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, during which they are expected to discuss the importance of “further strengthening the US relationship with the Palestinian people and leadership”.

Mr Blinken will also discuss with Israeli leaders Washington's continued support for the country's security, particularly against Iran.

The US and Israel this week conducted what US Central Command described as a “large-scale exercise in Israel and the East Mediterranean Sea”.

The exercise included more than 140 aircraft, 12 vessels, Himars and other rocket launch systems. More than 6,400 US personnel were involved.

The US has continued to increase pressure on Iran through sanctions, with Washington accusing Tehran of supplying Russia with drones for its continuing war in Ukraine

The US has also imposed sanctions on Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officials over the government's deadly crackdown on months-long protests after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini.

He will also meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi in Cairo to advance the US and Egypt's “strategic relationship”, and the nations' support for the Libyan elections and Sudanese-led political process, the State Department said.

AP contributed to this report

Updated: January 30, 2023, 11:13 PM