US secretary of state Antony Blinken told the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas that the US saw the PA as “playing a central role” in any post-Hamas government in Gaza, a US official said.
The official was speaking after Blinken held talks with Abbas in the occupied West Bank on Sunday, during his second trip to the region since Israel declared war on Hamas, the Palestinian militant group.
But Abbas said the PA would only assume power in Gaza, which Hamas has controlled since 2007, as part of a “comprehensive political solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to the Palestinians’ official Wafa news agency.
Blinken’s Middle East tour, which has also involved meetings in Tel Aviv, Amman and Baghdad, came as the Arab world and some western capitals stepped up calls for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict. Both Israel and the US have rejected the calls.
Abbas used the meeting with Blinken in Ramallah to call for an “immediate halt to the devastating Israeli war on Gaza” and to push for the “swift provision of humanitarian aid, including medical supplies, food, water, electricity and fuel” to the enclave, according to Wafa.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials in Gaza accused Israel of launching an air strike on a refugee camp that they said killed dozens of people.
Gaza health officials say 9,770 people have been killed in the war that was unleashed by Israel in response to Hamas’s attack on October 7. That assault killed 1,400 people, according to Israeli officials, and more than 240 others were taken hostage.
After an aerial bombardment of Gaza, Israel Defense Forces entered the territory late last month and have now encircled Gaza City, Hamas’s main base. Fierce street battles have been reported between IDF troops and Hamas militants.
Aid agencies have expressed concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is experiencing a dire shortage of food, drinking water, medicines and fuel.
Paltel, the Palestinian telecoms company, said on Sunday that all services in Gaza had been cut.
Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush Hamas and flatly ruled out even a temporary ceasefire until all hostages are released. The US is also against a ceasefire, saying it would merely allow Hamas to regroup and launch further attacks.
Blinken has instead proposed localised “humanitarian pauses” that would make it easier to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza and get foreign nationals out. He told Abbas the US was committed to getting aid in and restoring essential services, according to a readout from a state department spokesperson.
The talks come as US president Joe Biden’s administration turns its attention to what will happen to Gaza and who will run it if Israel achieves its war aim of dismantling Hamas.
One idea being discussed in Washington is a possible interim government run by Arab states or the UN before “an effective and revitalised PA” takes over governance.
But the PA, which exercises limited self rule in parts of the West Bank, is seen by many Palestinians as weak and corrupt, and lacking the necessary credibility to govern Gaza.
Despite that, Blinken was keen to convey to Abbas that the US wanted to see a just solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict once the war was over.
“The secretary also expressed the commitment of the US to working towards the realisation of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” the state department spokesperson said.
Hours before Blinken arrived in Ramallah, Wafa said Israeli warplanes had attacked Gaza’s Al-Maghazi refugee camp. Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesperson for the health ministry in Gaza, said more than 30 people had been killed.
The IDF did not immediately comment. Late last month, Israel carried out a strike on Gaza’s largest refugee camp, Jabalia, which it said killed a senior Hamas commander and which officials in the enclave said also killed dozens of civilians.
Meanwhile, four civilians were killed in an Israeli strike on a car in southern Lebanon on Sunday, Lebanon’s state news agency NNA reported, including three children.
Journalist Samir Ayoub, whose sister and her grandchildren were killed in the strike, told Al Mayadeen TV that “just ordinary citizens” were in the car.
Following the strike, Hizbollah, the Iran-backed militant group that controls southern Lebanon, said it had targeted Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel with Katyusha rockets. “The Islamic Resistance affirms that it will never tolerate attacks on civilians and its response will be firm and strong,” Hizbollah said.
IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari did not directly address the attack on the car, saying only that the Israeli military had “hit Hizbollah terror targets in south Lebanon, in response to anti-tank missiles that killed an Israeli civilian”.
It comes after Hizbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel on Friday against harming Lebanese civilians.
Western and Arab diplomats have for weeks been warning that the war risks triggering a broader conflict, and are particularly concerned about clashes across the Lebanese-Israeli border leading to a war between Israel and Hizbollah.