Saudis meet with Kushner, Greenblatt to discuss Gaza, peace push
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Saudis meet with Kushner, Greenblatt to discuss Gaza, peace push

US envoys make second stop on regional tour as tensions with Palestinians continue to rise

Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)
Jared Kushner alongside a member of the Saudi delegation at a White House meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, March 20, 2018. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool/Getty Images via JTA)

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince on Wednesday hosted US President Donald Trump’s special envoy Jason Greenblatt and adviser Jared Kushner to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli peace process, following a new flare-up of hostilities in Gaza.

The meeting with Prince Mohammed bin Salman came as Israeli warplanes pounded Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip in response to a barrage of rockets and mortar shells fired from the Palestinian enclave.

“Building on previous conversations, they discussed… the need to bring humanitarian relief to Gaza, and the Trump administration’s efforts to bring peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” the White House said in a brief statement.

The visit came a day after Greenblatt and Kushner met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman to discuss the peace process during a regional tour that will also take them to Israel, Egypt and Qatar.

The tour is widely seen as aimed at drumming up support ahead of the administration’s rollout of its own peace plan.

A senior administration official told The Times of Israel last week that the trip is an opportunity to “discuss the situation in Gaza and to discuss the next stages of the peace effort, as well as get some ideas from players in the region about some remaining questions the White House peace team has.”

No stops are planned in the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinians have preemptively rejected the Trump peace plan and cut off talks with the administration after the White House announced it would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been stalled since 2014.

The Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state; Israel considers the entire city to be its eternal and indivisible capital.

The talks with the Saudis came as Israel threatened to expand its response against Gazan terrorists launching rockets and incendiary devices over the border.

Israel’s latest strikes targeting Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, were more intense than in previous sorties.

Israeli warplanes initially targeted three Hamas military positions overnight in Gaza in response to kites and balloons carrying incendiary and explosive devices launched into Israel from the Palestinian territory, the Israeli army said.

The latest spike in tensions follows weeks of deadly protests and clashes along the Gaza-Israel border as well as the worst military escalation last month since the 2014 war.

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