Blinken heads to Middle East in wake of attacks on synagogue, refugee camp

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday kicked off a trip to Egypt, Israel and the West Bank amid high Israeli-Palestinian tensions and renewed violence, including recent attacks on a synagogue and refugee camp.

The secretary will meet separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to stress “the importance of a two-state solution” and “the protection of human rights and democratic values,” the State Department said in Blinken’s schedule.

“With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to deescalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives,” it added.

At least five people in Jerusalem were killed by a gunman Friday in an attack on a synagogue during religious services to mark Shabbat.

And in the West Bank, at least nine people were killed in an Israeli raid on a refugee camp.

The incidents contribute to one of the deadliest months seen in the area in years, and Blinken is expected to focus his visit on de-escalation of the conflict.

The secretary will stop first in Cairo before traveling to Jerusalem and then Ramallah, for a quick trip from Jan. 29-31.

With Netanyahu, Blinken will also talk “the enduring U.S. support for Israel’s security, particularly against threats from Iran,” per the State Department. With Abbas, he’ll will discuss the promotion of peace in the region, including support for elections in nearby Libya.

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