Blinken set to arrive in Egypt for Gaza ceasefire push

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

© APA | U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken

# 10 June 2024 09:23 (UTC +04:00)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to arrive in Cairo on Monday at a critical time as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas and Israel to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and ensure the war does not expand onto Lebanon, APA reports citing Reuters.

In his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the top U.S. diplomat is also set to travel to Israel, Jordan and Qatar this week.

U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched a relentless assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland.

Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October in a raid in Gaza on Saturday, during which 274 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza's health ministry.

Blinken's trip comes as Israeli minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emergency government on Sunday, withdrawing the only centrist power in the embattled leader's otherwise far-right coalition during the war in Gaza.

The departure of Gantz's centrist party will not pose an immediate threat to the government. But it could have a serious impact nonetheless, leaving Netanyahu reliant on hardliners, with no end in sight to the war and a possible escalation in fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah.

Blinken has previously met with Gantz in visits to Israel.

The conflict between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah is dangerously poised after more than eight months of fighting triggered by the Gaza war, with hostilities escalating and both sides signaling a readiness for a bigger confrontation.

Blinken during the trip this week will discuss with partners the need to reach a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages, as well as the need to prevent the conflict from escalating further, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Friday.

He will emphasize the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table, Miller added.

U.S. officials say that since it is an Israeli plan, Israel is likely to accept it. Qatar has said Israel needs to give a clear position on the plan that represents the whole government, parts of which have opposed any kind of truce.

Hamas has said it views the contents of the proposed plan positively and has criticized Washington for what it described as attempts to blame the Palestinian militant group for hampering it.

Ceasefire talks have intensified since Biden's speech and CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the plan.

Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long truce, in November.

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