Blinken arrives at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, the first stop on his Middle Eastern tour (Reuters)

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first stop on his new tour of the Middle East, on a tour aimed at ensuring a truce in the war between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Israel in the Gaza Strip.

On his fifth visit to the region since Operation “Al-Aqsa Flood” on October 7, 2023, Blinken is expected to stop after Saudi Arabia in Qatar, Egypt, and Israel.

Before the visit, Blinken stressed the need to “urgently respond to the humanitarian needs in Gaza,” after relief groups repeatedly sounded the alarm about the devastating repercussions of the war, which is approaching its fifth month, on the besieged Strip.

Blinken is expected to discuss a truce proposal drawn up during a meeting held by senior American, Israeli, Egyptian and Qatari officials in Paris last month.

Diplomatic action has become more urgent with the increase in attacks launched by groups in solidarity with the Palestinian resistance, which prompted the United States to carry out counter-strikes in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

Armistice proposal

Israel continued the attacks and threatened a new ground invasion into the city of Rafah, where more than half of Gaza's population - 2,400,000 people - are crowded on the Strip's southern border with Egypt, and live in temporary tents.

Sources familiar with the talks said that the ceasefire proposal includes a truce for at least 40 days, during which Hamas will release prisoners from among the remaining 253 hostages it took to Gaza on October 7.

But Hamas confirmed that no agreement had yet been reached, while some Israeli officials expressed their opposition to any concessions.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stresses that he is committed to achieving what he called “complete victory” and that any cessation of fighting will only be temporary, as long as Hamas fighters are at large.

Hamas says it will not agree to a truce or release the hostages, unless it receives guarantees that Israel will withdraw from Gaza and end the war.

The head of the Hamas political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, said last week that he would travel to Cairo to present his response to the ceasefire proposal, but Hamas did not set a date for his trip.

A Palestinian official familiar with the negotiations told Reuters that Hamas' response could come "soon," but it is up to Blinken to urge Netanyahu to make concessions that would complete the agreement.

Source: Agencies