By Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States and other countries are looking at "a variety of possible permutations" for the future of the Gaza Strip if Hamas militants are removed from control, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday.
Blinken told a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing the status quo of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas being in charge of the densely populated enclave could not continue, but Israel did not want to run Gaza either.
Between those two positions were "a variety of possible permutations that we're looking at very closely now, as are other countries," Blinken said.
What would make most sense at some point, Blinken said, was an "effective and revitalized Palestinian Authority" to have governance over Gaza, but it was a question whether that can be achieved.
"And if you can't, then there are other temporary arrangements that may involve a number of other countries in the region. It may involve international agencies that would help provide for both security and governance," Blinken said.
In retaliation to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel, the worst assault on Jews since the Holocaust, Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas in a relentless onslaught in the Gaza Strip. However it does not appear to have an obvious endgame in sight.
On Tuesday, Palestinian health officials said at least 50 Palestinians were killed when Israeli air strikes hit a densely populated refugee camp in north Gaza.
U.N. and other aid officials said civilians in the besieged Palestinian enclave were engulfed by a public health catastrophe, with hospitals struggling to treat casualties as electricity supplies petered out.
Washington has been speaking with Israel, as well as other countries in the region, on how to govern the Palestinian enclave if Israel triumphed on the battlefield, but a clear plan was yet to emerge.
Among the options that are being explored by the United States and Israel was the possibility of a multinational force that may involve U.S. troops, or Gaza be placed under United Nations oversight temporarily, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.
In response to the report, the White House said sending U.S. troops to Gaza as part of a peacekeeping force is not something being considered or under discussion.
Some of U.S. President Joe Biden's aides are concerned that while Israel may craft an effective plan to inflict lasting damage to Hamas, it has yet to formulate an exit strategy.
"We have had very preliminary talks about what the future of Gaza might look like," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a briefing. "I expect that it will be the subject of a good bit of diplomatic engagement moving forward," he added.
(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis; additional reporting by Steve Holland and Costas Pitas; Editing by Stephen Coates and Chris Reese)