Blinken heads to Egypt, Israel to push for Gaza ceasefire

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to visit Egypt and Israel on Monday, as the United States intensifies its efforts to broker a ceasefire in Gaza and prevent the conflict from spreading to Lebanon.

This marks Blinken’s eighth trip to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, igniting the deadliest phase of the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Later in the week, Blinken will also travel to Jordan and Qatar.

In Cairo, Blinken is scheduled to meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi before heading to Israel to confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, according to the State Department.

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

The October 7 attack by Hamas resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of approximately 250 others, according to Israeli reports. Israel’s subsequent military response has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the health ministry in Gaza, and left the enclave in ruins.

On Saturday, Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a raid that resulted in the deaths of 274 Palestinians, as reported by Gaza’s health ministry.

Blinken’s visit comes amid political upheaval in Israel, where Benny Gantz resigned from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s emergency government on Sunday, removing the only centrist influence from the predominantly far-right coalition. Gantz’s departure, while not an immediate threat to the government, could significantly impact Netanyahu’s reliance on hardliners as the war in Gaza continues without a clear end in sight and the potential for increased hostilities with Lebanese Hezbollah.

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