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Israel sits alongside Arab states at White House Gaza summit

In this Monday, June 20, 2016 photo, Palestinian children play among discarded vehicles in el-Zohor slum, on the outskirts of Khan Younis refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip.
AP Photo/ Khalil Hamra
The Palestinian Authority declined an invitation to the summit

A White House "brainstorming session" to be held Tuesday on alleviating the acute humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip will see Israeli officials sit alongside those from key Arab states including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Gaza is home to roughly 1.8 million Palestinians with spotty access to electricity, potable water and food, and labors under both infighting between Islamist Hamas and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), as well as a partial Israeli economic blockade.

The White House on Tuesday unveiled the attendance list for the summit, which includes rich donor countries as well as regional powers Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain -- none of whom have diplomatic ties with Israel.

Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Co-ordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the chief conduit between the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and PA. 

"I am so glad that all of you have put tensions aside to try to help -- we should all be proud of that and build on that," President Donald Trump's peace envoy Jason Greenblatt said in his opening remarks, according to text released by the White House.

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

"We all know that none of this will be easy," he added, "everything we do must be done in a way that ensures we do not put the security of Israelis and Egyptians at risk -- and that we do not inadvertently empower Hamas, which bears responsibility for Gaza’s suffering."

"But the situation today in Gaza is unacceptable, and spiraling downwards."

Greenblatt -- who alongside Jared Kushner was tasked by Trump with finding a way to resume stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks -- said "we regret" that the Palestinian Authority boycotted the meeting.

A reconciliation deal between the PA and Hamas thrashed out in the final months of 2017 has fizzled, and was dealt another blow on Tuesday when an explosion rocked the convoy of PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah as he entered Gaza.

A statement on official Palestinian media said PA President Mahmoud Abbas considered the incident a "cowardly targeting" of Hamdallah's convoy meant to scupper attempts to achieve Palestinian unity, adding that Abbas held Hamas responsible.

Other countries present on Tuesday include Canada, Germany, Egypt, Japan, Jordan, Oman and the United Kingdom.

Israel and Qatar's co-operation on humanitarian and reconstruction work in Gaza was revealed earlier this year in a series of interviews by a Qatari diplomat who said he had visited Israel on some 20 occasions for that purpose.

“When you want to do work in Gaza, you have to go through the Israelis,” Mohammed Al-Emadi, head of Qatar’s Gaza reconstruction committee, said during an interview with the Associated Press.

“Without the help of Israel, nothing happens,” he said.


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