Live updates on the Israel-Hamas war: latest news

Live updates on the Israel-Hamas war: latest news
Antony J. Blinken, the US Secretary of State, arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Monday. He was welcomed by Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Credit…Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken began a trip to the Middle East on Monday intended to prevent a broader war in the region and rally allies around a proposal to release hostages held in Gaza. The visit comes as the Biden administration continues its retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed militias that have targeted U.S. troops.

Mr. Blinken landed in Saudi Arabia in his fifth trip in the region since the October 7 attacks in Israel. U.S. officials said they hoped to advance negotiations on the proposal and would hold meetings with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank — all key players in negotiations on a possible pause in the fighting in Gaza.

The Biden administration and its Arab allies are still awaiting a response from Hamas to a framework agreement that would involve the exchange of more than 100 Israeli hostages held in Gaza for a pause in fighting and the release of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons .

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity to detail diplomatic efforts, said Mr Blinken would tell US allies in the region that the Biden administration’s recent strikes against Iranian-backed militias should not not be interpreted as an escalation of fighting in the Middle East. East.

The United States has carried out dozens of military strikes in recent days against targets in Iraq and Syria, in retaliation for the killing of three American service members at a base near the Syrian border in Jordan. And US and British warplanes, with support from their allies, have carried out a new round of airstrikes against the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen in a bid to deter the group from attacking ships in the sea Red.

The strikes in Iraq and Syria prompted Russia to call for an “urgent” meeting of the United Nations Security Council, which was due to meet Monday afternoon. Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, on Saturday accused the United States of further escalating the conflict in the Middle East, saying the strikes demonstrated the “aggressive nature of American policy” in the region.

In Israel, Mr Biden’s top diplomat will convey US concerns about the growing number of civilian deaths in Gaza. More than 27,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and nearly two million people have been displaced by the fighting.

“We have been equally clear that we must pay attention to and respond to the immense and terrible suffering of the Palestinian people,” Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said on Sunday. “And that means pressuring Israel on issues related to the humanitarian aid that we helped unlock and deliver to the Gaza Strip, and much more is needed. »

Mr. Blinken will also discuss what diplomats call “morning after” plans for administering Gaza after the fighting ends, including a possible role for the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The Biden administration also hopes to make progress in getting Saudi Arabia to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, a long-term goal the United States sees as important to stabilizing the Middle East. Under a proposed deal, the United States would offer Saudi Arabia a defense treaty, help it with a civilian nuclear program and increase its arms sales, while the Saudis and Americans would oblige, by theory, Israel to accept the conditions for concrete steps towards the creation of a defense agreement. Palestinian state in exchange for Saudi recognition.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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