RAMALLAH—U.S. top diplomat Antony Blinken made an unannounced visit to the occupied West Bank on Sunday and met with the Palestinian Authority president as he continues a tour of the region amid spiraling tensions over Israel’s war with Hamas.
Mr. Blinken and Mahmoud Abbas met in the West Bank city of Ramallah, on his second visit to the region since Palestinian Hamas fighters launched a surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,400 people and taking more than 240 others hostage.
As Israel continued a campaign of air strikes that Gaza health officials—which operate under the control of Hamas—say has killed nearly 9,500 Palestinians, Secretary of State Blinken rebuffed calls for a ceasefire from Arab officials on Saturday after appealing, unsuccessfully, to Israel for more limited pauses to the fighting a day earlier.
As well as seeking to ensure the conflict does not spread in the region, Mr. Blinken is trying to kickstart discussions on how Gaza could be governed after the destruction of Hamas, which Israel says is its aim.
Mr. Blinken told Mr. Abbas that the Palestinian Authority should play a central role in what comes next in the Gaza Strip, a senior State Department official told Reuters.
“(The) future of Gaza was not the focus of the meeting but the Palestinian Authority seemed willing to play a role,” the senior State Department official added.
Mr. Blinken said the United States was committed to getting aid into Gaza and restoring essential services there, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a readout of the meeting.
“The Secretary also expressed the commitment of the United States to working toward the realization of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations for the establishment of a Palestinian state,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Blinken has suggested an “effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority” would make the most sense to ultimately run the Gaza Strip but admitted that other countries and international agencies would likely play a role in security and governance in the interim.
Mr. Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, which exercises limited self-rule in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has seen its popularity shrivel amid allegations of graft, incompetence, and security cooperation arrangements with Israel. It is unclear who will succeed the aging and ailing Mr. Abbas, 87, a staunch opponent of Hamas.