Blinken in Israel for 'Landmark' Arab Talks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv - AP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv - AP
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Blinken in Israel for 'Landmark' Arab Talks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv - AP
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Tel Aviv - AP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Israel Sunday for a "historic" meeting with Arab countries which have normalized relations with the Jewish state in the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

Blinken, who arrived in Tel Aviv Saturday evening, will meet with his counterparts from Israel, Morocco, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the Negev desert Sunday and Monday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid described it as a "historic summit".

Blinken's visit, the first stop in a trip that will also take him to the West Bank, Algeria and Morocco -- where he will hold talks with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed -- is focused in part on building support for Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

US officials say two other key issues are on the agenda for the trip: quelling the Jewish state's worries about a looming nuclear deal with Iran, and discussing the potential global wheat shortage caused by the Ukraine war that could deal a heavy blow to the import-dependent Middle East.

"We know this pain is keenly felt in the Middle East and North Africa, where most countries import at least half of their wheat", much of it from Ukraine, State Department Acting Assistant Secretary Yael Lempert said ahead of the trip, AFP reported.

The war "will only continue to increase the price of basic staples like bread in the region, taking money from the pockets of the hardest working and most vulnerable families," she said.

The trip comes as the United States and Iran are in the final stages of negotiating a revival of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which aimed to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapons capacity.

The administration of former US president Donald Trump quit the deal unilaterally in 2018 and reimposed punishing economic sanctions, and Iran has since resumed many of its sensitive nuclear activities.

The conclusion of a renewed accord could come in a matter of "days", EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who is coordinating talks with Tehran, said Saturday.

"We are very close but there are still some issues pending," Borrell told reporters on the sidelines of the Doha Forum in Qatar.

Blinken will also meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

After Israel, Blinken will travel to Morocco and Algeria to talk about regional security and the disputed territory of Western Sahara.



13 Palestinians Killed in Central Gaza Strikes

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
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13 Palestinians Killed in Central Gaza Strikes

Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)
Smoke rises from a building hit by an Israeli strike in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip on July 20, 2024. (Photo by Eyad BABA / AFP)

At least 13 people were killed in three Israeli airstrikes that hit refugee camps in central Gaza overnight into Saturday, according to Palestinians health officials.

Among the dead in Nuseirat Refugee Camp and Bureij Refugee Camp were three children and one woman, according to Palestinian ambulance teams that transported the bodies to the nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs hospital.

The 13 corpses were counted by AP journalists at the hospital.

The latest casualties follow a rare moment of hope in war ravaged Gaza, after a medical teams recovered a live baby from a heavily pregnant Palestinian mother killed in an airstrike that hit her home in Nuseirat late Thursday evening.

Heavily pregnant Ola al-Kurd, 25, was killed along with six others in the blast, but was quickly rushed by emergency workers to Al-Awda Hospital in northern Gaza in the hope of saving the unborn child. Hours later, doctors told The Associated Press that a baby boy had been delivered.

The still-unnamed newborn is stable but has suffered from a shortage of oxygen and has been placed in an incubator, said Dr. Khalil Dajran. The baby boy's father was wounded in the same strike, but survived.

At least 38,919 Palestinians have been killed and 89,622 have been injured in the Israeli military offensive in Gaza since Oct. 7, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Saturday.