Israel says Blinken to visit ‘soon’ as ceasefire holds

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Tel Aviv, May 21 (IANS) Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken would visit the region in the coming days, as an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire to halt 11 days of bloody fighting between the Jewish state and Hamas was enforced on Friday.
Ashkenazi tweeted that Blinken said in a phone call he “intends to visit the region soon”, reports dpa news agency
“I welcomed his decision and told him that we would welcome him warmly and that I look forward to continuing our discussions on advancing regional strategic issues for maintaining Israel’s security and regional stability,” Ashkenazi wrote.
The fighting in the Gaza Strip since May 10 killed 232 people in Gaza and 12 people in Israel.
According to the Israeli army, the majority of those killed in the Gaza Strip were Palestinian militants.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, around a quarter of the fatalities were minors.
Among those killed on the Israeli side were a soldier, two workers from Thailand, an Indian nurse and Arab Israelis.
The ceasefire came into effect at 2 a.m.
Israeli forces and Gaza Strip militants have fired thousands missiles back and forth since May 10, in response to the rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza to retaliate for Israel’s violation of the sacred Islamic holy site of Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
According to the Israeli Defence Forces, the Palestinian side fired some 4,070 rockets towards the Jewish state.
But over 90 per cent of the rockets heading toward populated areas were intercepted by the Israel’s Iron Dome.

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