Blinken begins Mideast tour again, lands in Saudi's capital to press for truce in Gaza - GulfToday

Blinken begins Mideast tour again, lands in Saudi's capital to press for truce in Gaza


Antony Blinken is welcomed upon arriving at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. Reuters

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman on Monday at the start of his fifth visit to the Middle East since the outbreak of the war in Gaza, hoping to press ahead with a potential ceasefire deal and postwar planning while tamping down regional tensions.

On his fifth trip to the region since the war, Blinken landed in Riyadh and was later expected to visit Israel and mediators Egypt and Qatar. Ahead of the trip he stressed the need for "urgently addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza," after aid groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the devastating impact nearly four months of war have had on the besieged Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, meanwhile, Hamas has begun to re-emerge in some of the most devastated areas after Israeli forces pulled back, an indication that Israel's central goal of crushing the group remains elusive. Video footage from the same areas shows vast destruction, with nearly every building damaged or destroyed.


Also during the day, Spain said that it would give an additional 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million) in aid to the UNRWA, which is facing a cash crunch after several nations suspended their funding.

"Spain will release an urgent envelope of 3.5 million euros so that UNRWA can maintain its activities in the short term," Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told a parliamentary committee.

In the Gaza Strip, Palestinians huddling under bombardment said they hoped Blinken's visit to the region would finally deliver a truce, in time to head off a threatened new Israeli assault on the last refuge at the enclave's edge.

"The situation is indescribable," said Said Hamouda, a Palestinian who fled his home to the southern Gaza city of Rafah on the border with Egypt. Dubbed a "pressure cooker of despair" by the United Nations, Rafah now hosts more than half of Gaza's population, displaced due to Israel's assault.

At least 128 people were killed in Israeli strikes overnight to Monday, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory. The fatalities bring the overall Palestinian death toll from nearly four months of war to 27,478.

A United Nations official has accused Israel’s navy of striking an aid convoy carrying food destined for hard-hit northern Gaza. The food convoy was waiting to move into northern Gaza when it was hit by Israeli naval gunfire on Monday morning, Thomas White, the Gaza director of UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said in a post on the X platform.


Blinken is expected to discuss a truce framework not yet signed off on by either Hamas or Israel. The protracted diplomatic efforts have become more urgent with a surge in attacks across the region by Iran-backed Hamas allies, triggering counterattacks by the United States and its partners.

The proposed truce would pause fighting for an initial six weeks as Hamas frees hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and more aid enters Gaza, according to a Hamas source.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has faced divisions within his cabinet and public fury over the fate of the remaining hostages, said Israel "will not accept" demands made by Hamas for an exchange.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres announced the creation of an independent panel to assess UNRWA and "whether the agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality," a UN statement said.

French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne, on his first visit to the region since taking office, said peace will only be achieved through diplomacy, urging the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks "without delay."

Sejourne also said that Israeli "settler violence must stop" against Palestinians in West Bank, following a meeting with  Netanyahu. "Under no circumstances can there be forced displacement of Palestinians, neither out of Gaza nor out of the West Bank," Sejourne said during a Middle East tour aimed at securing a truce between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.


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