White House Middle East co-ordinator heads to region for talks on Israel-Gaza war

Brett McGurk will visit Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Gulf countries including the UAE

US co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk. AFP
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The White House's co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa will visit the region as the Israel-Gaza war rages on amid rising calls for a ceasefire.

Brett McGurk left on Monday night for visits to Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Gulf countries including the UAE, the White House said in a statement.

Before heading to the Middle East, he met Nato allies and EU representatives in Belgium on Tuesday to discuss “a co-ordinated approach to the current situation in the Middle East".

Mr McGurk said it would focus on "significantly expanding humanitarian assistance to Gaza, economic pressure on Hamas and other terrorist groups, and demands to immediately release hostages of multiple nationalities still being held by Hamas”.

On October 7, Hamas militants entered Israel and killed about 1,200 people, taking about 240 hostages.

After the attack, Israel began to pummel the Gaza Strip in a near-constant air strike campaign and ground invasion.

More than 11,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed so far.

During Mr McGurk's trip to Israel, he will discuss the country's security needs with officials while emphasising the importance of protecting civilians amid military operations.

Discussions will also focus on continuing efforts to secure the release of about 240 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza and the need to rein in violent extremist settlers in the West Bank.

“In the West Bank, Mr McGurk will discuss the Biden administration’s support for the Palestinian Authority and its essential role as the representative of the Palestinian people, as well as the need for reforms to promote long-term stability in both the West Bank and Gaza, and the aspirations of Palestinians to live with equal measures of freedom, security and dignity in a state of their own,” the White House said.

The trip comes as the US continues to voice strong support for its ally Israel.

While international calls have grown for a ceasefire, Washington has pushed for “humanitarian pauses” in the fighting, which will allow for the entry of aid.

Mr McGurk is joined on the trip by Barbara Leaf, assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

Updated: November 14, 2023, 11:14 PM