Blinken Visits Egypt, Israel to Reinforce Gaza Cease-fire Negotiations

Blinken Visits Egypt, Israel to Reinforce Gaza Cease-fire Negotiations
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (3rd L) meets with Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo on June 10, 2024. (Amr Nabil/Pool//AFP via Getty Images)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt on Monday on what is his eighth visit to the region amid a critical time in the Gaza conflict. Washington looks to increase pressure on both Hamas and Israel to agree to a cease-fire and to avoid further expansion of the war into Lebanon, according to the State Department.

Mr. Blinken is also set to visit Jordan and Qatar later this week. In Egypt he will meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before moving on to Israel later that day.

In Israel he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to a State Department schedule.

The visit by the U.S. top diplomat comes on the back of a three-phase cease-fire proposal from Israel, outlined by President Joe Biden on May 31. The proposal is centered around achieving a permanent end to the conflict, as well as the release of all Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

Moreover, the proposal also focuses on the reconstruction of Gaza, which has been ruled by the terrorist group Hamas since 2006.

Israel initiated its war effort against Hamas following the Oct. 7, 2023, massacre, in which Hamas murdered more than 1,200 civilians and took nearly 300 people hostage.

Since the start of the war, the offensive also led to losses on the Palestinian side, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands more, while reducing much of the enclave to rubble.

In a rescue mission in central Gaza on June 8, four Israeli hostages were freed. During the operation, the commander of the Israeli national police counter-terrorism unit (Yamam) was killed in action, while the Hamas-controlled Gaza health ministry claimed that more than 270 Palestinians died. Gaza’s health ministry does not distinguish between civilian and terrorist casualties.

Mr. Blinken’s trip also follows Sunday’s resignation of Israeli minister Benny Gantz from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s emergency government, effectively withdrawing any opposition power from the coalition.

While Mr. Gantz’s resignation will likely not pose an immediate threat to the government, it could still perpetuate Israel’s war effort and could spark a possible escalation in fighting with the terrorist organization Hezbollah.

Mr. Blinken had met with Mr. Gantz on previous visits to Israel.

Meanwhile, tensions are high between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, with both sides signaling a readiness for a bigger confrontation, as hostilities in the region have reached a peak following more than eight months of fighting.

According to a statement made by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on June 7, negotiating the need for a cease-fire agreement, securing the release of all hostages, and preventing further escalation of the conflict are at the forefront of Mr. Blinken’s visit—with a particular emphasis on encouraging Hamas to accept the proposal at hand.

Cease-fire talks have intensified since President Biden’s speech last month, which was also underlined by a meeting between CIA director William Burns and senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on June 5 in Doha, where details of the plan were discussed.

There has so far only been one week-long cease-fire in November last year, shortly after the conflict began.

Reuters contributed to this article.