Blinken Embarks on Sixth Diplomatic Mission to the Middle East, Focused on Gaza Situation

Blinken (Credits: The Japan News)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarks on his sixth visit to the Middle East since the onset of Israel’s conflict with Hamas. His primary objective is to broker a temporary cessation of hostilities and secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Blinken’s itinerary includes meetings with Saudi leaders in Jeddah and Egyptian leaders in Cairo. Discussions will revolve around ongoing talks facilitated by Egypt and Qatar to reach a ceasefire agreement.

Additionally, efforts to increase humanitarian aid delivery to Gaza will be on the agenda, highlighted by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller.

Blinken (Credits: The Hill)

While negotiations for a ceasefire resume in Qatar this week, reaching an accord between Israel and Hamas has proven challenging despite Washington’s efforts. The U.S. hopes that such an agreement will alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

In addition to ceasefire discussions, Blinken intends to address governance, security, and the reconstruction of Gaza post-conflict. “We’ve been actively engaged since January, particularly with our Arab partners.

We will continue these discussions and explore strategies for achieving lasting peace in the region,” Blinken stated during a press conference in Manila.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas erupted when Hamas militants launched a deadly attack on Israel on October 7, resulting in casualties and the capture of hostages. Israel responded with a retaliatory campaign, resulting in significant casualties in Gaza.

Despite his multiple visits to the region since October 7, Blinken does not have plans to visit Israel during this trip. This decision comes amidst heightened tensions between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

Blinken (Credits: San Diego Union-Tribune)

Tensions escalated further when Netanyahu declined Biden’s request to halt a planned ground assault in Rafah, southern Gaza, where a large number of displaced Palestinians seek refuge.

On Wednesday, Israel’s military reported the elimination of approximately 90 gunmen and the arrest of 160 individuals in a raid on Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital.

The hospital, once the most significant healthcare facility in Gaza, has been severely impacted by the conflict and is now one of the few operational facilities in the northern region.

The military defended its actions, citing intelligence indicating the hospital’s use by gunmen. This raid follows a similar operation last November, which uncovered tunnels allegedly used by Hamas for military purposes.

However, both Hamas and medical personnel deny these allegations, emphasizing the hospital’s humanitarian role and refuting claims of military involvement.