U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday during an unannounced visit to the West Bank, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance and resume essential services in Gaza as Israel’s war against Hamas continues.
The U.S. secretary also made clear during talks in Ramallah Sunday that Palestinians must not be forcibly displaced, according to State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.
Blinken and Abbas discussed efforts to restore calm and stability in the West Bank, including the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians and hold those accountable responsible, Miller said.
“Secretary Blinken reiterated that the United States remains committed to advancing equal measures of dignity and security for Palestinians and Israelis alike. The secretary also expressed the commitment of the United States to work toward the realization of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Miller added.
During the meeting, Abbas demanded an immediate Israeli cease-fire as Gaza’s health ministry said dozens died in a strike on a refugee camp overnight. Blinken has called for humanitarian pauses in the conflict, something Israel has rejected so far.
Abbas condemned Israel’s bombardment of Gaza as a “genocidal war” and urged Blinken “to immediately stop them from committing such crimes,” the official Palestinian WAFA news agency reported.
Blinken’s unannounced visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah followed his meeting Saturday with Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan. He was also expected to visit Turkey.
Israel said Sunday that since it launched the war on Hamas on October 7, “over 2,500 terror targets have been struck.” The targets were hit, Israel said, with “the combined activities” of Israel’s ground, air and naval forces.
The Israeli military said in the statement posted on its Telegram channel, “Overnight, IDF troops directed aircraft to strike a Hamas military compound containing command and control centers, observation posts, and additional terrorist infrastructure.”
The Israeli military campaign against Hamas was launched after the surprise Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 Israelis. More than 200 people were also taken hostage by the militants. Gaza’s Hamas-run health officials say more than 9,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli military operations.
The World Health Organization said in a post on social media that since October 7, it has documented 102 attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip, resulting in “504 fatalities, 459 injuries, damage to 39 facilities and affected 31 ambulances.”
The U.N. agency said more than half the health attacks and over half of the targeted hospitals were in Gaza City.
Separately, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is suspending Heritage Minister Amihai Eliyahu from Cabinet meetings after Eliyahu said dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza would be a possibility.
Netanyahu said on social media that Eliyahu’s comments were “not based in reality.”
Eliyahu is not a participant in Israel’s wartime security Cabinet.
Meanwhile, the former prime ministers of Australia and Britain, Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson, were in Israel to show their “solidarity” with Israel and its people.
Morrison said Sunday, “I am thankful for the opportunity to join former Prime Minister Johnson to come to Israel as a demonstration of solidarity with the people and state of Israel and the Jewish community throughout the world.”
On Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “We want to see Gaza as a peaceful region that is a part of an independent Palestinian state, in line with 1967 borders, with territorial integrity, and with East Jerusalem as its capital,” according to broadcaster Haberturk and others.
Ankara also said Saturday it was recalling its ambassador to Israel. Israel recalled its envoys to Turkey last month after Erdogan described Hamas as freedom fighters and said he does not view the group as a terrorist organization, unlike the United States, Britain and others in the West.
On Saturday, in Blinken’s meeting with Arab leaders in Amman, Jordan, he was pressed on the need for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza as Israel’s military struck a U.N. shelter and school, killing civilians.
Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told reporters Saturday that although he condemned the Hamas attacks of October 7 and that “nobody in their right mind” would belittle the pain felt by Israel that day, the war in Gaza could not be allowed to continue.
The Jordanian and Egyptian foreign ministers asked for an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, but Blinken said that would be counterproductive.
Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu has said that will happen only if Israeli hostages are freed.
“It is our view now that a cease-fire would simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on October 7,” Blinken said, in reference to Hamas’ attack on southern Israel that triggered the latest Gaza war.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian news agency reported that 51 Palestinians were killed late Saturday when Israel bombarded the Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The Reuters news agency could not independently verify the WAFA report. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Such strikes have leveled large areas of northern Gaza neighborhoods. About 300,000 of the area’s residents are sheltering in U.N. facilities, one of which was hit Saturday, killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens of others.
VOA’s Nike Ching contributed to this report.