While traveling to Jerusalem on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and announced the United States’ plans to provide aid to Gaza and assured that work will be done to ensure Hamas doesn't benefit from U.S. aid dollars.
“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,” Blinken said in remarks.
Blinken reiterated that the U.S. would ensure Hamas did not receive any aid intended to assist the Palestinian people.
“The United States will work to rally international support around that effort while also making our own significant contributions, including some that I’ll announce later today,” Blinken continued. “We’ll work with our partners, closely with all to ensure that Hamas does not benefit from the reconstruction assistance.”
Blinken announced $38 million of aid to support humanitarian efforts in Gaza and the West Bank.
"This new assistance includes nearly $33 million for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in support of its West Bank and Gaza operations, and an additional $5.5 million to humanitarian partners," the announcement reads.
"This critical assistance will support humanitarian organizations to provide emergency shelter, food, relief items, and health care, as well as mental health and psychosocial support for those who experienced trauma."
The administration also stated its intent to work with Congress to provide $75 million in "additional development and economic assistance over the next year that will support relief and recovery in the West Bank and Gaza." The aim of that potential funding is to "advance private sector growth and access to basic needs and services, such as providing health care and addressing food insecurity."
"Pending completion of congressional notification, another $10 million will support programs that support reconciliation work to reduce tension and violence over the long term," the State Department announcement explained.
The total amount of U.S. assistance to Palestinians pledged by the Biden administration is at least $360 million after President Donald Trump cut off virtually all aid for the region, according to ABC News.
Last Friday, the United Nations announced its release of $22.5 million in humanitarian aid for the rising needs in Gaza after the flare-up of violence in recent weeks between Israeli Defense Forces and Hamas led to death, injury and mass displacement.
Some are concerned that providing aid to Gaza will indirectly contribute to the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist group, which has a powerful hold on Gaza.
Blinken's remark comes after a senior State Department official on Monday said the agency could not guarantee that Hamas will not receive any of the funding when asked by a reporter if the U.S. could ensure aid to Gaza would not be diverted to replenish the Hamas arsenal.
“We’re going to be working in partnership with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to kind of channel aid there in a manner that does its best to go to the people of Gaza,” the official said, according to a State Department transcript.
“I’m also sure that the Government of Egypt will have some role in that,” the official continued. “As we’ve seen in life, as we all know in life, there are no guarantees, but we’re going to do everything that we can to ensure that this assistance reaches the people who need it the most.”
Hamas, which the U.S. recognizes as a foreign terror organization, seek Israel’s demise and initiated the recent attacks that lasted nearly two weeks, firing over 4,000 rockets into Israel.
In response, Israel Defense Forces launched airstrikes targeting Hamas leaders, which Gaza health authorities say also killed civilians and children.
Around 250 people were killed, and hundreds were wounded, primarily Palestinians, in the two weeks of violence. Additionally, several buildings were destroyed.
A ceasefire was reached on May 21.
Blinken also mentioned the U.S.’s potential return to the Iran nuclear agreement while countering Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region.
The Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear agreement with Iran, one of Hamas’ top sponsors.
Netanyahu said he hopes the U.S. does not rejoin the nuclear deal with Iran since Israel believes "that that deal paves the way for Iran to have an arsenal of nuclear weapons with international legitimacy."
During the remarks, Netanyahu thanked Biden for “firmly supporting Israel’s right of self-defense." He said if Hamas “breaks the calm and attacks Israel, our response will be very powerful.”
The prime minister said that they have discussed ways to collaborate “to prevent Hamas rearmament with weapons and means of aggression.”
Netanyahu also emphasized the importance of improving the lives of Palestinians and conditions in Gaza.
“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,” Netanyahu said.
“I think President Biden was absolutely correct when he said you’re not going to get peace until Israel is recognized as an independent Jewish state,” the prime minister continued. “And that is the key.”
Blinken’s trip to the Middle East includes travels to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Cairo and Amman.
The U.S. has “engaged in intensive diplomacy to bring an end to the hostilities in Gaza,” according to the State Department.
During his visit, Blinken will discuss efforts to continue to reduce the risk of conflict and continue the ceasefire.
"I believe the Palestinians and Israelis equally deserve to live safely and securely and to enjoy equal measures of freedom, prosperity and democracy," Biden said upon the announcement of the ceasefire. "My administration will continue our quiet and relentless diplomacy toward that end.”
Emily Wood is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org