Blinken Adds a Stop in Israel to His Mideast Trip

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will travel to Israel this week, adding a stop to his latest Middle East trip amid intense diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Mr. Blinken arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday afternoon. The State Department initially made no mention of Israel in announcing his travel plans, saying only that he would visit Saudi Arabia and then Egypt on the trip — Mr. Blinken’s sixth to the region since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 attack on Israel set off the war in Gaza.

On Wednesday, the State Department said that Mr. Blinken would travel to Israel as well for talks with the country’s “leadership” about efforts to secure the release of hostages held in Gaza and to “dramatically increase” humanitarian aid deliveries to the enclave.

There was no immediate confirmation from the Israeli government. Nor were there details on whom Mr. Blinken would meet with.

The visit will come as American and Israeli leaders are increasingly at odds over Israel’s approach to the war. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has brushed aside President Biden’s opposition to a planned ground invasion of Rafah in southern Gaza, saying on Tuesday that his government would press ahead despite pleas for restraint from the United States and other allies.

In a phone call with Mr. Netanyahu this week, Mr. Biden argued that a ground invasion could be disastrous for those sheltering in Rafah and that Israel had other ways of achieving its objective of defeating Hamas.

Before the trip, the State Department had said that Mr. Blinken would meet with Saudi and Egyptian leaders, without naming specific officials.

The discussions were expected to include postwar plans for Gaza and the wider Middle East, including a possible agreement that would ease relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and lay the foundations for the eventual creation of a Palestinian state, Mr. Blinken told reporters on a stop in Manila on Tuesday.

His trip comes as negotiators from Israel have joined officials from Egypt and Qatar for meetings in the Qatari capital, Doha, aimed at securing a pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip and the release of hostages held there by Hamas and other armed groups.

Those efforts have taken on greater urgency as the death toll in Gaza climbs and as the United Nations warns that a famine in the enclave is “imminent.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Blinken stressed the need to provide humanitarian relief to Gaza, whose inhabitants, he said, “continue to face a horrific humanitarian situation.” He said that Hamas bore blame for the crisis but that it was also “incumbent on Israel” to protect civilians during its military campaign.

John Yoon contributed reporting.

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