Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi admonished Israel for its response against Hamas while speaking with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, calling the assault on Gaza “collective punishment.”
“The reaction went beyond the right to self-defense, turning into collective punishment for 2.3 million people in Gaza,” el-Sisi told Blinken on Sunday, according to Reuters.
The remarks are some of Egypt’s strongest public statements since last week’s massacre at an Israeli music festival turned the conflict between Israel and Palestine into an all-out war. Egypt has emerged as a middle ground between Israel and Palestine, with the U.S. and Israel negotiating with the country to allow U.S. citizens and foreign nationals to enter Egypt from Gaza.
The Egyptian leader also told Blinken the war could have implications for the entire region, though he maintained that Egypt was still an ally to the Jewish people
“You said that you are a Jewish person,” el-Sisi said, according to a Washington Post reporter. “I am an Egyptian person who grew up next to Jews in Egypt. They have never been subjected to any form of oppression or targeting and it has never happened in our region that Jews were targeted.”
Blinken told el-Sisi he came “as a human being” who was horrified by Hamas’ actions. The stop marked one of numerous on Blinken’s tour of the Middle East to garner support for reducing tensions and prevent a further, more regional escalation of the war. Since arriving in Israel, Blinken has visited Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.
Following his conversation with el-Sisi, Blinken told reporters each country has expressed its desire to prevent further violence as he committed the U.S. to Israel’s safety.
“It was important to make it very clear that the United States has Israel’s back,” he said. “We will stand with it today, tomorrow, and every day.”
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