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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets Palestinian President Abbas

01:44 AM Nov 06, 2023 IST | SURINDER SINGH OBEROI
us secretary of state antony blinken meets palestinian president abbas
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New Delhi, Nov 5: In a high-level meeting today, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to discuss a range of critical issues.

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During the meeting, Blinken emphasized the United States' commitment to providing vital humanitarian aid and essential services in Gaza. A spokesperson for the US State Department, Matthew Miller, said that Blinken stressed the importance of preventing the forced displacement of Palestinians.

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Mahmoud Abbas conveyed a strong message to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, emphasizing the urgent need for an "immediate ceasefire" and the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. This plea was shared by his spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, with Reuters news agency.

During the meeting, President Abbas also expressed his distress over the devastating situation faced by the Palestinian people in Gaza, denouncing the extensive destruction and loss of life caused by Israel's military actions. He stressed that these actions disregarded the fundamental principles of international law.

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This call for a ceasefire and humanitarian assistance echoes similar demands made by several Arab states in the region.

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However, during a joint press conference held on Saturday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alongside the foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt, dismissed the notion of an immediate ceasefire. Instead, he proposed a "humanitarian pause" as an alternative, citing concerns that a ceasefire could allow Hamas to regroup.

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Blinken and Abbas also engaged in conversations about efforts to restore peace and stability in the West Bank. They discussed the need to combat extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those responsible accountable.

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Mathew Miller conveyed that Blinken reiterated the US commitment to advancing equal measures of dignity and security for both Palestinians and Israelis. Additionally, Blinken expressed the United States' dedication to working towards the fulfilment of legitimate Palestinian aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Following his meeting with Abbas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken departed for Turkey, continuing his diplomatic engagements in the Middle East. His recent discussions with Middle Eastern leaders, including demands for a ceasefire, took place during his visit to Jordan.

Turkey has witnessed protests ahead of Blinken's visit, with the country's leader expressing strong criticism of Israel and its Western supporters, particularly as the death toll in Gaza continues to rise.

Blinken reiterated his support for "humanitarian pauses" to ensure that civilians can receive the necessary assistance. US President Joe Biden also suggested progress on this issue, though Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stated that a temporary ceasefire is contingent on the release of all Israeli hostages.

During yesterday’s meeting with Arab leaders, Blinken was urged to exert pressure on Israel to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, where the death toll approaches a significant milestone. The meeting between Blinken and Abbas was relatively brief, with no official statements provided at its conclusion. However, Blinken advocated for a humanitarian pause, aligning with President Biden's recent remarks indicating potential progress in this direction.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently engaged in discussions with Middle Eastern leaders, emphasizing the need for a humanitarian pause in the ongoing conflict. Several countries and the United Nations have called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Humanitarian pauses will be short-term and limited in scope, and ceasefires aim for a longer-term cessation of hostilities to facilitate dialogue and the potential for a permanent political settlement. Ceasefires are more comprehensive and provide more extended periods for parties to regroup and negotiate.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani has shed light on the intricate nature of negotiations concerning the release of Israeli captives in Gaza, addressing what he described as "false" reports without delving into specifics.

Speaking at a news conference in Doha alongside French Foreign Minister Colonna, Al Thani emphasized the complexities arising from "Israeli military practices" within the enclave.

Meanwhile, Qatar's Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Majed al-Ansari, underscored that securing the release of the captives necessitates a "period of calm" and cautioned against the detrimental effects of leaks emerging from the negotiation process.

Israel’s heavy bombardment of Gaza has intensified, particularly in the north intensive bombardment of Gaza escalates, with a particular focus on the northern region, where numerous civilians find themselves trapped and unable to escape.

According to Gaza's health ministry, an Israeli airstrike rocked the central Gaza Strip, resulting in the tragic loss of over 40 lives within the al-Maghazi refugee camp on Saturday night. An Israeli military spokesperson, in response, announced an investigation into whether the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) were operating in the area at the time, as reported by the AFP news agency. In an update released on Sunday morning, the IDF disclosed that their ground, air, and naval forces have targeted "more than 2,500 terror targets" since the initiation of their ground operations in Gaza.

Overnight, Israeli troops coordinated aerial strikes on a military compound, which, as per their statement, housed "command and control centres, observation posts, and additional terrorist infrastructure."

The IDF further conveyed that close-quarter combat situations continue inside Gaza without giving much detail. The health ministry in Gaza reports a staggering death toll exceeding 9,700 people in the Strip since October 7, when Israel commenced its bombing campaign in response to the attacks carried out on that date, during which Hamas killed 1,400 individuals and took approximately 240 hostages.

The Israeli military, on Sunday, initiated a four-hour window to facilitate the movement of people from northern Gaza to the south, following a three-hour window on Saturday. The designated route for evacuation remains the Salah al-Din Road, the primary north-south highway in the Gaza Strip, open between 10:00 and 14:00 local time (0800-12:00 GMT).

However, on Saturday, the Israeli army accused Hamas of preventing civilians from leaving the area, alleging that they were using them as "human shields." Consequently, Israel has declared northern Gaza an evacuation zone and is urging residents to relocate to the southern region, where an estimated 350,000 to 400,000 Palestinians currently remain in the north.

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