Palestinian president Abbas decries Israel’s ‘genocide’ in Gaza to Blinken

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Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas decried Sunday Israel’s “genocide” in the Gaza Strip amid its war on Hamas militants there, in remarks to visiting US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“I have no words to describe the genocide and destruction suffered by our Palestinian people in Gaza at the hands of Israel’s war machine, with no regard for the principles of international law,” Abbas told Blinken in Ramallah, in remarks carried by official Palestinian news agency Wafa.

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Blinken made an unannounced visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday and met with the Palestinian Authority president as he continues a tour of the region amid spiraling tensions over Israel’s war with Hamas.

Blinken and Mahmoud Abbas met in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the de facto Palestinian capital, on his second visit to the region since Palestinian Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.

Abbas told Blinken that there must be an “immediate ceasefire” and humanitarian aid allowed to enter the Gaza Strip, Reuters reported, citing Abbas’ spokesperson.

Blinken told Abbas that Palestinians in Gaza “must not be forcibly displaced,” a State Department spokesman said.

Blinken told Abbas that the Palestinian Authority should play a central role in what comes next in the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official said.

Abbas said that the Palestinian Authority could return to power in the Gaza Strip only if a “comprehensive political solution” is found for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, according to Wafa.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said the pair also discussed “the need to stop extremist violence against Palestinians” in the West Bank.

As Israel continued a campaign of air strikes that Gaza health officials say has killed nearly 9,500 Palestinians, Secretary of State Blinken rebuffed calls for a ceasefire from Arab officials on Saturday after appealing, unsuccessfully, to Israel for more limited pauses to the fighting a day earlier.

As well as seeking to ensure the conflict does not spread in the region, Blinken is trying to kickstart discussions on how Gaza could be governed after the complete destruction of Hamas that Israel says is its aim.

Blinken has suggested an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” would make the most sense to ultimately run the strip but admitted that other countries and international agencies would likely play a role in security and governance in the interim.

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has seen its popularity shrivel amid allegations of graft, incompetence and widely hated security cooperation arrangements with Israel. It is unclear who will succeed the aging and ailing Abbas, 87, a staunch opponent of Hamas.

The foreign ministers of Egypt and Jordan said on Saturday after meeting with Blinken that it was premature to talk about the future of Gaza, as they called for an immediate ceasefire to address the humanitarian crisis that has engulfed the strip’s 2.3 million residents.

Blinken argued that a ceasefire would only allow Hamas to regroup, but is trying to convince Israel to agree to location-specific pauses that would allow much needed aid to be distributed within Gaza.

The meeting was Blinken’s second with Abbas since the conflict began, but the first to take place in the West Bank. It was not announced ahead of time and Reuters agreed not to publish details of the trip until it was complete due to security concerns.

Violence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, already at a more than 15-year high this year, has surged further since the war began, with more than 170 attacks on Palestinians involving Jewish settlers recorded by the United Nations.

“This has been a serious problem that’s only worsened since the conflict,” Blinken told reporters on Saturday in Amman, adding that he told Israeli officials the day before that the perpetrators of such violence much be held accountable.

With agencies

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