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Blinken meets with Abbas, says rebuilding Gaza should not 'benefit' Hamas

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas after Israel's 11-day Gaza bombardment
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on 25 May (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced plans to provide tens of millions of dollars in aid to Gaza, but said Washington would work closely with its partners to ensure Hamas would not "benefit from the reconstruction assistance" after Israel's air campaign wrought destruction on the territory.

Speaking alongside Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Tuesday, Blinken laid out a plan to immediately provide $5.5m in disaster assistance for the Gaza Strip and $32m to the United Nations agency that supports Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). 

Blinken said the administration will also ask Congress to approve another $75m in development and economic assistance for Palestinians.

He also announced that the process to reopen the US Consulate in Jerusalem will begin soon.

'Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom opportunity and dignity'

- Antony Blinken

"As I told the president, I'm here to underscore the commitment of the United States to rebuilding the relationship with the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people, a relationship built on mutual respect and also a shared conviction that Palestinians and Israelis alike deserve equal measures of security, freedom opportunity and dignity," Blinken said. 

"The United States is committed, Mr President, to working with you and to working with the Palestinian people to realise these aspirations," Blinken said while addressing Abbas during his remarks.  

Blinken is in the region to help bolster a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas movement in Gaza, which Egypt, the US and other regional powers helped broker last week.

During Israel's 11-day bombardment of the Gaza strip, its air strikes killed more than 240 Palestinians in Gaza, including more than 60 children, while 2,000 others were injured. Meanwhile, rockets fired from Gaza killed 12 people in Israel.

Rebuilding Gaza should not 'benefit' Hamas

Earlier on Tuesday, Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking to media following the sit-down, Blinken said international aid to rebuild Gaza should not benefit Hamas.

The US does not have relations with the Hamas movement, as it officially designates the group as a terrorist organisation. 

"We'll work with our partners closely, with all, to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance," Blinken said.

"We know that to prevent a return to violence, we have to use the space created to address a larger set of underlying issues and challenges. And that begins with tackling the grave humanitarian situation in Gaza and starting to rebuild."

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Gaza has been besieged under an air and sea blockade administered by Israel and Egypt since 2007 when the Hamas movement was voted into power. Still, the Biden administration has repeatedly stressed that it will not coordinate with the Hamas movement in any way during its efforts to rebuild Gaza. 

Meanwhile, the US administration has also moved away from focusing on the peace process between the PA and Israel. 

On Tuesday, Blinken failed to even mention a Palestinian State in his remarks. 

For his part, President Abbas thanked the Biden administration for its support and for its efforts to push for an end to Israeli settlement expansion.

Abbas highlighted the need for democracy in Palestine despite choosing to cancel elections - the first in 15 years - that were scheduled to take place last week.

The elections were postponed over Israel's refusal to allow East Jerusalem residents a space to cast ballots. Abbas has said that once Israel agrees to allow voting rights for East Jerusalemites, the elections will be rescheduled "immediately". 

Abbas also noted the need for a government of national accords between the PA and Hamas. Past efforts to establish a unity government between the two powers have repeatedly failed.