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Blinken headed to Mideast this week

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank on Wednesday and Thursday as part of Washington’s efforts to build on the Gaza truce, a source briefed on the planning said on Saturday.

US, Israeli and Palestinian officials have not published Blinken’s full itinerary. The State Department announced his visit on Thursday, saying he would “discuss recovery efforts and working together to build better futures for Israelis and Palestinians”.

Blinken’s Middle East trip would include visit to Egypt, which mediated the Gaza truce between Israel and Hamas, as well as to Jordan, the source said.

US President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Washington would work with the United Nations on bringing humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Gaza, with safeguards against funds being used to arm Hamas, which the West deems a terrorist group.

Egypt sent a delegation to Israel on Friday to discuss ways of firming up the ceasefire, including with aid for Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas officials told Reuters.

The delegates have since been shuttling between Israel and Gaza, with talks continuing on Saturday, the officials said.

Despite confrontations between Israeli police and Palestinians at a Jerusalem holy site on Friday, there were no reports of Hamas rocket launches from Gaza or Israeli military strikes on the enclave as of Saturday morning.

The ceasefire began before dawn on Friday, and Palestinians and Israelis are now assessing the damage from 11 days of hostilities in which Israel pounded Gaza with air strikes and militants fired back rockets at Israel.

Palestinian officials put the reconstruction costs at tens of millions of dollars and medical officials said 248 people had been killed in Gaza. The devastation has raised concerns about the humanitarian situation in the densely populated enclave.

Source: Al-Arabiya News

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