Secretary of state heading to Middle East amid Israel-Hamas cease-fire

▶ Watch Video: Israel and Hamas both claim victory, while Palestinians pick up the pieces in Gaza

Washington — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to the Middle East on Monday at the request of President Biden as the fragile cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas continues to hold.

The State Department said in a statement Blinken will visit Israel, the West Bank, Egypt and Jordan to discuss the truce and reduce the risks of further violence between Israel and Hamas. 

Beginning in Jerusalem, the secretary of state will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials. Blinken will then travel to Ramallah to sit down with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian leaders, followed by a trip to Cairo for a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. Blinken will end his visit in Amman, Jordan, to meet with His Majesty King Abdullah II.

Mr. Biden said in a statement he asked Blinken to travel to the Middle East as a follow-up to his administration’s “quiet, intensive diplomacy to bring about a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.”

“During his trip, Secretary Blinken will meet with Israeli leaders about our ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He will continue our administration’s efforts to rebuild ties to, and support for, the Palestinian people and leaders, after years of neglect. And he will engage other key partners in the region, including on the coordinated international effort to ensure immediate assistance reaches Gaza in a way that benefits the people there and not Hamas, and on reducing the risk of further conflict in the coming months,” Mr. Biden said.

After 11 days of violence between Hamas and Israel, the worst fighting in the region in years, the two sides said late Thursday they agreed to a cease-fire. The truce came after more than 230 Palestinians and 12 Israelis died in the conflict, most in the Gaza Strip.

Israel said Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets at its towns and cities in the fighting, though most were stopped mid-air by its Iron Dome missile defense system. Israeli airstrikes, meanwhile, caused extensive damage in Gaza, leveling buildings and hurting its infrastructure.

The Biden administration faced considerable scrutiny from Democratic lawmakers who urged the president to more forcefully call for a stop in the violence. Mr. Biden, however, said Thursday his administration was engaging in “quiet and relentless diplomacy.” 

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