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Blinken sees Palestinian Authority return, international role for Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken testifies during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing
— Washington (AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday that the Palestinian Authority should retake control of the Gaza Strip from Hamas, with international players potentially filling a role in an interim.

As Israel bombards Gaza in retaliation for an October 7 assault by Hamas, Blinken endorsed the Israeli goal of destroying the Islamist militant movement that has ruled the impoverished territory since 2007.

"At some point, what would make the most sense would be for an effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority to have governance and ultimately security responsibility for Gaza," Blinken told a Senate hearing.

"Whether you can get there in one step is a big question that we have to look at. And if you can't, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region," he said.

"It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance."

Blinken said that there cannot be a "reversion of the status quo with Hamas running Gaza."

"We also can't have -- and the Israelis start with this proposition themselves -- Israel running or controlling Gaza," Blinken said.

While Blinken backed Israeli goals against Hamas, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long sought to sideline the Palestinian Authority and its president Mahmud Abbas, which exercises limited autonomy in parts of the occupied West Bank.

Blinken on a recent trip to the Middle East met twice with Abbas and voiced appreciation for efforts in the West Bank to preserve calm, which has since deteriorated, with at least 122 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or settlers since October 7, according to the Ramallah-based health ministry.

Two members of the Israeli forces have been killed in the West Bank over the same period, one of them by friendly fire, the military said.

Blinken again repeated that the United States backed the creation of a Palestinian state, a goal bitterly opposed by members of Netanyahu's hard-right government.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It imposed with Egypt a blockade of the territory after Hamas took over in 2007 following the militants' conflict with Fatah, which dominates the Palestinian Authority.

Israel launched its assault in response to an unprecedented attack by Hamas on October 7 when its militants poured across the Gaza border, killing more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking more than 230 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

Since then, Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says more than 8,500 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory, over 3,500 of them children.