US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's Israel-Palestine visit comes amid soaring tensionsComments
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to arrive in Jerusalem on Monday as part of a three-day tour of the Middle East.
Arriving from Egypt, the visit falls amid heightened tensions after Israeli soldiers sealed off the family home Sunday of a 21-year-old Palestinian, Khayri Alqam, who killed seven people near a synagogue in east Jerusalem on Friday.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Saturday an expansion of punitive measures against Palestinian attackers and their relatives. The course of action includes revoking the rights to social security of "the families of terrorists that support terrorism".
"In parallel, we are expanding and speeding up the issuing of gun licenses for thousands of Israeli citizens, and that includes emergency services,” Netanyahu says. "We are not seeking an escalation but are prepared for any possibility. Our answer to terror is a firm hand and a powerful, fast and precise reaction."
Israel claims that the demolitions of the family homes of Palestinians have a deterrent effect, but critics have denounced it as collective punishment, leaving families homeless.
Both Netanyahu and the president of the Palestinian Authority Mahmud Abbas will meet Blinken separately over the course of Monday and Tuesday – in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
It will be Netanyahu's first high-level US meeting since returning to office as the head of the most right-wing government in Israeli history.