Israel seeks to destroy Hamas, raising the question of who would run the Palestinian territory after the war.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) could return to power in the Gaza Strip only if a “comprehensive political solution” is found to the Israel-Palestine conflict, according to PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas on Sunday met with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on yet another tour of the region as Israel’s deadly military campaign in Gaza nears a month.
“We will fully assume our responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution that includes all of the [occupied] West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip,” Abbas was quoted as telling Blinken by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa.
Israel says Hamas can no longer be left in control of the besieged enclave after the group’s October 7 attack that left about 1,400 Israelis dead – a sentiment backed by Washington.
Hamas, considered a “terrorist” group by the US and the European Union, is a rival of Abbas’s Fatah party. Hamas took over Gaza from the PA in 2007, after being blocked from exercising real power despite winning a parliamentary election the previous year.
Israel fully withdrew its troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but imposed a crippling blockade on the coastal territory after Hamas took power.
Blinken made a surprise visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday as Israel pressed on with its attacks on Gaza, where the death toll has reached nearly 10,000, almost half of them children.
Israeli ground forces also continue to push into Gaza, engaged in heavy fighting with Hamas fighters, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has consistently rejected growing calls for a ceasefire.
In what appeared to be the most direct US position since the start of the war on October 7, Blinken told Abbas the PA should play a central role in the future of Gaza, the Reuters news agency reported.
The agency quoted an unnamed senior US State Department official as saying the “future of Gaza was not the focus of the meeting but the Palestinian Authority seemed willing to play a role”.
Abbas and Blinken reportedly talked for about an hour in Ramallah but did not address the media, as Blinken had done during the previous legs of his regional trip.
Blinken said Washington is committed to getting aid into Gaza and restoring essential services after Israel cut access to food, water and electricity in the besieged enclave.
However, the US has also opposed a ceasefire, instead going only so far as to back a “pause” to facilitate humanitarian aid and allow some residents to exit Gaza through the Egypt-controlled Rafah border crossing.