US official to visit Israel to discuss Qatari aid for Gaza
During the five day visit of Hadi Omar, the US official responsible for the Palestinian-Israeli relations file at the US State Department, will visit Ramallah and Tel Aviv, and hold discussions on a number of issues, including Qatari aid to Gaza.
Talks will focus on the mechanisms of transferring and distributing the Qatari financial grants in the besieged enclave.
Israel’s brutal offensive in May left countless buildings destroyed, and the putative siege imposed by Israel since 2007, makes it almost impossible for building materials to be delivered to the impoverished strip.
Currently there is an American-Israeli agreement to distribute Qatari aid for reconstruction through the United Nations, and not through the Hamas government, which runs the strip.
Additionally, Omar’s talks will also address Israel’s policy of destroying Palestinian homes in the West Bank, which the Biden administration has already spoken out against.
The Biden administration was particularly angered by the destruction of American Palestinian Montaser Shalaby’s house in the village of Turmusaya.
"There is a critical need to lower the temperature in the West Bank," said US state department spokesman Ned Price.
"Punitive measures such as house demolitions increase tensions, while everyone has to act to maintain calm," he added.
Talks in with Palestinian officials are expected to find a way through the internal political crisis currently plaguing the Palestinian Authority following the death of Palestinian activist Nizar Banat, who was held in PA custody.
Recent demonstrations in the West Bank have called for the removal of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The US has recently criticised the conduct of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces.
The US state department released a statement following the death of Banat, in which it described the news as "disturbing".
"We urge the Palestinian Authority to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation and to ensure full accountability in this case," the statement read.
"We have serious concerns about Palestinian Authority restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression by Palestinians and harassment of civil society activists and organisations," it continued.
The visit by Omar will represent the first visit of a senior US official since the formation of a new Israeli government.