People take to the streets to celebrate following a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and the ruling Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City early on May 21, 2021
People take to the streets to celebrate following a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and the ruling Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in Gaza City early on May 21, 2021
Photo: AFP

Jerusalem, May 25: After last week's ceasefire following 11 days of brutal conflict between Israel and Palestine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday committed to improve the grave humanitarian crisis in Gaza and promulgate peace and cooperation between the two countries.

In his remarks to the media, Netanyahu thanked the US for supporting the country against "Hamas aggression" and warned of a powerful response if Hamas breaks the claim and attacks Israel. He also said both sides have discussed ways of how to work together to prevent Hamas rearmament with weapons and means of aggression.

"We need to work together to expand normalisation between Israel and the Arab and the Muslim world, and deepen the peace treaties that we already have. We discussed also how to improve the lives and the conditions of the Palestinians, the humanitarian conditions in Gaza, including the question of the return of our MIAs and two civilians who are there, as well as building economic growth for Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, with international cooperation and participation, and for peace itself with the Palestinians, a formal peace," he said.

Meanwhile, Blinken highlighted that US President Joe Biden has been Israel's most steadfast supporters for the last 50 years and committed to strengthen all aspects of the Washington-Jerusalem relationship.

"President Biden asked me to come here today, really, for four reasons: First, to demonstrate the commitment of the United States to Israel's security, to start to work toward greater stability and reduce tensions in the West Bank and Jerusalem, to support urgent humanitarian and reconstruction assistance for Gaza, to benefit the Palestinian people, and to continue to rebuild our relationship with the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority," he said.

Blinken, however, said that the US fully supports Israel's right to defend itself against attacks such as the thousands of rockets fired by Hamas indiscriminately against Israeli civilians.

"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. The United States will work to rally international support around that effort while also making our own significant contributions...We'll work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance," he added.

The top US diplomat further said both sides will need to work to expand opportunity for Palestinians in Gaza and West Bank, including by strengthening the private sector, expanding trade and investment, among other means, to foster a more stable environment that benefits Palestinians and Israelis.

"As President Biden has said, we believe that Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely; to enjoy equal measures of freedom, opportunity, and democracy; to be treated with dignity," he said.

Both sides also discussed the intercommunal violence that erupted in Israel during the conflict and eruption of anti-Semitic attacks in the US, stressing that there is a a lot of hard work ahead to restore hope, respect, and some trust across communities.

Meanwhile, speaking on the US-Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu expressed hope that Washington does not go back to the deal as he believes it will pave the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy.

"We also reiterated that whatever happens, Israel will always reserve the right to defend itself against a regime committed to our destruction, committed to getting the weapons of mass destruction for that end," he said.

In this regard, Blinken said the US continues to work together to counter Iran's destabilising actions in the region.

The US Secretary of State is currently on a three-day visit to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo, and Amman after a ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, according to the Department of State. He is traveling to the region to discuss essential follow-up efforts to consolidate the ceasefire and reduce risks of further conflict over the coming months.

The fighting between Israel and Hamas began on May 10, after Gaza militants fired barrages of rockets at Israel in protest to the Israeli measures in East Jerusalem. A tit-for-tat trade of fire broke out, where Israeli fighter jets carried out hundreds of airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. Israel said it targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and other militant groups in the enclave.

Palestinian Health Ministery claimed that at least 277 Palestinian residents died in the latest conflict escalation with Israel. While on the other hand, around 12 Israeli have lost their lives, as per Al Jazeera. Last week, an Egypt-brokered ceasefire was reached between the two sides.

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