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Blinken to Make 5th Middle East Visit Since October 7 Attacks


FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Jan. 21, 2024. Blinken is scheduled to travel to the Middle East next week for the fifth time since the Israel-Hamas war began, the State Department announced on Feb. 2, 2024.
FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland on Jan. 21, 2024. Blinken is scheduled to travel to the Middle East next week for the fifth time since the Israel-Hamas war began, the State Department announced on Feb. 2, 2024.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel and the West Bank from Sunday through Thursday next week, according to a statement released Friday by the State Department.

The tour will mark Blinken's fifth trip to the region since the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel and is a part of his ongoing effort to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas and work toward a humanitarian pause that would allow more aid to reach civilians in Gaza.

A large part of the diplomatic mission will be to push a proposal that calls for pauses in fighting in exchange for the release of hostages. On Friday, a senior Hamas official said that they will respond "very soon" to a proposal negotiated by Egyptian, Qatari and U.S. mediators in Paris earlier this week and approved by Israel.

Blinken will work to "establish a more integrated, peaceful region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike," State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said.

Blinken's trip will also address the ongoing Houthi attacks on vessels in the Red Sea. Miller said that Blinken will aim to prevent conflict from spreading "while reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea."

Since mid-October, Houthi rebels in Yemen have initiated a series of attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea, hindering global trade and causing some companies to resort to longer, more-expensive routes.

This trip follows Blinken's recent trip to Africa, in which he visited four countries to discuss security and strengthening economic partnerships.

Some information from this report came from The Associated Press.

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