Blinken Visits Egypt Amid Efforts to Secure Ceasefire and Prevent Escalation with Hezbollah

June 11, 2024 by No Comments

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt on Monday, a pivotal moment as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas and Israel to agree to a ceasefire in Gaza and prevent the war from spreading.

Blinken met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo and is scheduled to travel to Israel later on Monday, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

This marks Blinken’s eighth trip to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, sparking the most violent chapter in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During this week’s visit, he will also travel to Jordan and Qatar.

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

According to Israeli counts, the Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage. In retaliation, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip, resulting in the deaths of more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory as of Sunday. The enclave has been reduced to ruins.

During a raid in Gaza on Saturday, Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October. This operation resulted in the deaths of 274 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Blinken’s trip comes after Benny Gantz, the head of Israel’s centrist Blue and White party, resigned from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government on Sunday, leaving the embattled leader’s coalition with a far-right majority during the Gaza war.

A senior State Department official said Blinken is expected to meet with Gantz on Tuesday.

While the departure of Gantz’s centrist party won’t immediately threaten the government, it could have serious consequences. It leaves Netanyahu relying on hardliners, with no end in sight to the war and a potential escalation of fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah.

Blinken has previously met with Gantz during his visits to Israel.

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

During his visit this week, Blinken will discuss with partners the need for a ceasefire agreement that secures the release of all hostages, as well as preventing further escalation of the conflict, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in a statement on Friday.

Miller added that Blinken will emphasize the importance of Hamas accepting the proposal on the table.

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

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