United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken continued his diplomatic tour of the Middle East this Tuesday and met with Egyptian leaders within their efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in exchange for the release of the hostages still in the hands of the insurgents.
Blinken's visit coincides with growing concern in Egypt over the intentions Israel's declarations to expand the fighting in the Gaza Strip to areas on the Egyptian border that are crowded with displaced Palestinians.
The Israeli Defense Minister said that the Jewish state's offensive will eventually reach Rafah, a city on the border with Egypt, where more than half of the 2.3 million residents of the besieged territory have sought refuge and live in increasingly difficult conditions. more miserable.
United Nations humanitarian observers said Tuesday that Israeli evacuation orders already affect two-thirds of the enclave, pushing thousands more people toward the border area every day.
Egypt has warned that an Israeli deployment along the border would threaten the peace treaty signed more than four decades ago. Cairo fears that the arrival of fighting in Rafah could push terrified Palestinian civilians across the border, a scenario it said it is determined to avoid.
Blinken, who also met with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah El Sisi on Tuesday, has insisted that Palestinians should not be forced to leave Gaza.
The American Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, with the President of Egypt Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, this Tuesday in Cairo. Photo: EFE
What Antony Blinken is looking for
On this tour of the region, Blinken seeks progress in an agreement for a ceasefire, in the possible normalization of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia and to avoid the escalation of regional conflicts.
Blinken faces significant challenges on all three fronts. Hamas and Israel are publicly at odds over key elements of a possible truce. Israel has rejected US calls to open a path to a Palestinian stateand the US strikes have shown little sign of deterring Iran-allied militias in the region.
Egypt, along with Qatar – where Blinken is also traveling this Tuesday – have tried to mediate an agreement between Israel and Hamas that would lead to the release of more hostages in exchange for a pause of several weeks in the Israeli military offensive.
The details of that agreement were outlined by the intelligence chiefs of the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel late last month and were presented to Hamas, which has not yet formally responded.
US officials indicated that Blinken hopes to obtain updated information on the ultra-Islamic group's response to the proposal in both Cairo and Doha. On Wednesday he will travel to Israel to brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet on progress.
As with his four previous trips to the Middle East since the start of the war in Gaza, Blinken's other main goal is to prevent the conflict from spreading, a task exponentially more difficult because of the Intensified attacks by Iranian-backed militias and by the increasingly severe US military response in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and the Red Sea, which has intensified since last week.
Blinken met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman upon his arrival in Riyadh. Saudi officials said the kingdom remains interested in normalizing relations with Israel in a potentially historic deal, although only if there is a credible plan for the creation of a Palestinian state.
Palestinians displaced by the war in Gaza walk towards a makeshift shelter near Rafah, on the border with Egypt. Photo: REUTERS
The fighting in Gaza does not stop
But any such big deal seems a long way off as The war continues to rage in Gaza.
After almost four months of war, the number of Palestinian deaths in Gaza reached 27,585 people, according to the Ministry of Health of the territory managed by Hamas, after hospitals received 107 bodies in the last day. Although the count does not differentiate between civilian victims and combatants, it indicates that two thirds of those killed are women and minors.
Debris and destruction after an Israeli bombardment against a building in Deir Al-Balah, in the southern Gaza Strip, this Sunday. Photo: BLOOMBERG
The fighting has devastated large areas of the small enclave and left a quarter of the population without food.
Israel has vowed that the war will continue until it crushes Hamas's military and governance capabilities and achieves the release of the more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas.
The terrorist group and other insurgents killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, in their devastating Oct. 7 attack that started the war, and took about 250 more hostage.
More than a hundred captives, mainly women and children, were freed during a ceasefire in November in an exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
The Israeli military said Tuesday it was fighting insurgents in areas across the Strip, including in the southern city of Khan Younis, where it said it killed dozens of fighters on Monday.
An Israeli airstrike hit an apartment building in the city, killing two parents and four of their five children, according to the children's grandfather.
Mahmoud al-Khatib said his son Tariq, 41, was sleeping with his family when an Israeli warplane attacked their home in the middle of the night. The Israeli military does not usually comment on specific attacks, but blames Hamas for civilian deaths, alleging that its fighters infiltrate civilian areas.
U.N. humanitarian observers said Tuesday that Israeli evacuation orders for the Strip now cover two-thirds of the territory, or 246 square kilometers (95 square miles). 1.78 million Palestinians – 77% of Gaza's population – lived in the affected area before the war between Israel and Hamas began on October 7, following a deadly cross-border insurgent attack.
Displaced people have between 1.5 and 2 liters of water for drinking, cooking and washing each day, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its latest daily report on Tuesday. In addition, a significant increase in chronic diarrhea among minors was reported.
Parents with babies face an especially difficult challenge due to the high cost or lack of diapers, formula and milk.
Zainab Al-Zein, who is sheltering in the central city of Deir al-Balah, said she had to feed her 2.5-month-old daughter solid foods such as crackers and ground rice, much earlier than the usual six months, because she could not There was no milk or formula.