Blinken meets with Palestinian leader in West Bank

Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a previously unannounced trip to the occupied West Bank on Sunday to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abba as the death toll from the Israel-Hams war continues to climb. 

Blinken’s visit to Ramallah comes on the third day of his tour to the Middle East amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas — a militant group that launched a surprise deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7. This is the second tour he has taken to the Middle East since the outbreak of the war last month. 

His visit comes hours after health officials said an Israeli airstrike hit a refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, killing at least 40 people, the Associated Press reported. The meeting between Blinken and Abba concluded with no public comment, the AP noted. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that Blinken emphasized that the United States will continue to push for life-saving humanitarian assistance and resumption of essential services in Gaza in the meeting, according to the AP. The two leaders also discussed efforts to restore stability in the West Bank as the number of attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians continues to increase.

The escalation of aerial attacks on Gaza, coupled with the lack of needed supplies, has raised concerns that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the territory. U.S. officials are suggesting that Israel, which they say has a right to defend itself, agree to a humanitarian pause to get hostages out of Gaza. 

Blinken was in Israel on Friday to press Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a “humanitarian pause” in the fighting to decrease the risk to civilians living in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has bombarded with airstrikes in its effort to eliminate Hamas, which the U.S. designates as a terrorist organization. 

The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry said that the Palestinian death toll reached 9,700 as of Sunday, including thousands more injured. More than 1,400 Israels have also been killed, mostly in that initial attack on Oct. 7. Hamas also took more than 200 people as hostages in its initial raid.

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