U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to embark on a five-day trip to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank to address ongoing efforts in securing the release of hostages held by Hamas. This marks Blinken’s fifth visit to the region since the October 7 Hamas attack against Israel. The primary objectives include reaching a deal for the release of remaining hostages and implementing a pause in the fighting to facilitate increased humanitarian assistance to Gaza civilians.
Blinken emphasized the pursuit of durable peace in the region for both Israelis and Palestinians. The visit comes amid a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in Gaza, with hundreds of thousands facing potential famine. Funding challenges have arisen as more than a dozen donor countries, including the United States, suspended financial support to UNRWA, the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees, following accusations against 12 members for their alleged involvement in the October 7 attacks.
Blinken, acknowledging the severity of the crisis, reiterated the highly credible nature of Israeli information related to the accusations. However, the U.N. agency has urged countries to resume funding, emphasizing the vital role it plays in the survival of over 2 million Gazans. The agency has taken immediate action by terminating contracts of staff implicated in the allegations.