Jerusalem Shooting Raises Security Concerns Ahead of Blinken Trip

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank next week in a trip that will be subject to renewed security concerns following a deadly shooting at a synagogue in East Jerusalem.

Seven people were killed and at least three others wounded in the attack on Friday. Israeli authorities have so far arrested 42 people in connection with the incident, the BBC reported.

The 21-year-old gunman was killed by police and was reportedly a resident of East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, two people were injured in a separate gun attack outside the Old City on Saturday, which police say was committed by a 13-year-old boy.

Blinken was due to visit the region before the attack occurred, but will now make the journey amid heightened tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Antony Blinken Speaks in Washington, D.C.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during the United States Conference of Mayors 91st Winter Meeting on January 18 in Washington, D.C. Blinken will travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank next week in a trip that will be subject to renewed security concerns following a deadly shooting at a synagogue in East Jerusalem. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

There is almost certain to be a substantial security presence for Blinken's visit, which will be the his first trip to Israel since the new government has come to power.

The Biden administration is reportedly concerned about some elements of the new government, particularly far-right politicians who are opposed to the administration's policy with regard to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

On Thursday, Israeli forces killed nine Palestinians in a raid on a refugee camp in the city of Jenin in the West Bank, which is administered by the authority, while several others were injured. It was the deadliest raid in the territory in more than two decades, according to the Associated Press.

A 61-year-old woman was among those killed, while the Israeli military shot and killed a 22-year-old Palestinian later that day, as protesters approached them about the raid.

The Palestinian Authority announced that it would end security co-operation with Israel following the raid. Israel also launched air strikes on the West Bank on Friday after rockets were fired into Israeli territory.

Blinken will travel to Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Ramallah as part of a broader trip to the region, which will also include a stop in Cairo where he'll meet Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and other officials.

However, Blinken's meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be the focus of greater attention. The State Department said on Thursday that the two are expected to discuss "Israeli-Palestinian relations and the importance of a two-state solution, and a range of other global and regional issues."

Blinken will then meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his officials, where he will also discuss Israeli-Palestinian relations and the two-state solution, among other topics.

"With both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, the Secretary will underscore the urgent need for the parties to take steps to deescalate tensions in order to put an end to the cycle of violence that has claimed too many innocent lives," the State Department said in its statement.

When reached on Saturday morning, the State Department pointed Newsweek to previous statements on the the synagogue attack and comments made to the press on Friday by the Department's Principal Deputy Spokesperson, Vedant Patel.

Patel told reporters that Blinken "is looking forward to holding meetings in Jerusalem and Ramallah with senior officials to discuss a range of the key issues that a number of State Department officials, including myself and others, have talked about extensively this week."

In response to another question, Patel said that "we recognize the very real security challenges facing Israel and the Palestinian Authority and condemn terrorist groups planning and carrying out attacks against innocent civilians. And we also mourn the innocent – loss of innocent lives and regret injuries to civilians."

Update 01/28/23 09.42a.m. E.T.: This article was updated to include a statement form the State Department.