U.S.’s Blinken to push for Gaza ceasefire on Middle East trip

March 19, 2024 - 4:01 PM
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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Philippines' Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo (not pictured) hold a joint press conference, at the Sofitel Hotel in Manila, Philippines, March 19, 2024. (Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein/Pool)

U. S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit the Middle East this week, aiming to reach a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas, and secure the release of hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.

During a visit to the Philippines, Blinken said his trip to meet senior leaders in Saudia Arabia and Egypt would aim to “discuss the right architecture for lasting regional peace”.

Providing more humanitarian aid into Gaza as well as discussing post-war planning for the enclave are among the topics he will discuss with Saudi and Egyptian officials.

“One hundred percent of the Gaza population is in need of humanitarian assistance,” Blinken said, adding that it was “absolutely incumbent” upon Israel to prioritize assistance for those in desperate need.

Extreme shortages of food in parts of the Gaza Strip have already exceeded famine levels, and mass death is now imminent without an immediate ceasefire and surge of food to areas cut off by fighting, global hunger monitor Integrated Food-Security Phase Classification has said.

“We’ve also impressed upon Israel the imperative of having a plan for Gaza for when the conflict ends, which we hope will be as soon as possible, consistent with Israel’s needs to defend itself and make sure Oct. 7 can never happen again,” Blinken added.

Israel has said it will try to “flood” the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid from varied entry points, as global pressure mounts to tackle the growing problem of hunger in the besieged enclave.

—  Reporting by Mikhail Flores in Manila; Writing by Martin Petty, Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Clarence Fernandez