Blinken will visit Israel and three Arab states next week

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken plans to visit Israel and three Arab states next week as the United States pushes for a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas to end the war in Gaza.

Blinken is scheduled to travel to Israel, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan Monday through Wednesday, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement Friday. The trip, which will be his eighth visit to the region since the October 7 Hamas-led attacks that sparked the war, comes at a particularly tense time.

The Biden administration is doing its best to halt the fighting in Gaza in hopes of freeing Israeli — and some Israeli-American — hostages held by Hamas and ending a conflict that has taken a heavy toll in lives, devastated physically most of Gaza and created political pressure. on President Biden to limit American arms deliveries to Israel.

Relations between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are particularly strained following Biden's decision to delay the delivery of 2,000-pound American bombs, a move intended to ensure they are not used in some sort of “invasion on large scale” in the city of Rafah, Gaza, which Biden has said he opposes.

Blinken's trips also come as concerns grow that fighting could intensify along Israel's northern border with the Iran-backed Lebanon-based Hezbollah militant group. The firefights prompted evacuations on both sides of the border.

A ceasefire would “unlock the possibility of achieving calm along Israel's northern border, so that both displaced Israeli and Lebanese families can return to their homes,” Miller's statement said.

Qatar and Egypt have each served as mediators between Hamas and Israel, which do not negotiate directly.

Israel recently strained relations with Egypt by taking “tactical control” of a buffer zone on the Egypt-Gaza border, known as the Philadelphia Corridor.

In Jordan, Blinken is expected to attend a conference on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, co-hosted by Jordan, Egypt and the United Nations.

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