October 29, 2019 / 8:25 PM / 13 days ago

Death of Islamic State leader 'big' but more work lies ahead: Kushner

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was a big step in the fight against Islamic State but the United States still has more work to do, White House adviser Jared Kushner said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Senior advisor Jared Kushner attends a meeting between China's Vice Premier Liu He and U.S. President Donald Trump in the Oval Office at the White House after two days of trade negotiations in Washington, U.S., October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that Baghdadi killed himself during an overnight raid by elite U.S. special operations forces in Syria.

“Killing the leader was a very big, symbolic victory. I think it was very big for America, big for the world, big for the region. But at the end of the day we still have more work to do,” Kushner, who is Trump’s son-in-law, told Israeli Channel 13 News.

World leaders and security experts have warned that Islamic State, which carried out atrocities against religious minorities and horrified most Muslims, remained a security threat in Syria and beyond even after their leader’s death.

Baghdadi died alongside three of his children by detonating an explosives-laden vest when he fled U.S. forces into a dead-end tunnel during the attack in northwest Syria, Trump said.

Kushner, who has been spearheading the Trump administration’s plan to end the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict, met on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and with his centrist election rival Benny Gantz.

Gantz has been tasked with forming the next government after Netanyahu failed to do so following an inconclusive September election.

In the run-up to the vote, Netanyahu had announced his intention to annex the Jordan Valley, a large swathe of the occupied West Bank, if he won. [L5N2615TB]

Kushner did not endorse Netanyahu’s bid in his interview but also did not rule it out.

“We like to keep our options open, that’s the Trumpian way,” Kushner said.

The Palestinians, who are boycotting the Trump administration, want the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip for a future state. Israel captured those territories in the 1967 Middle East war.

Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall

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