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Secretary of state holds critical meetings in Israel to discuss cease-fire, hostage release

Antony J. Blinken is hoping to reach an agreement that returns the remaining 100 hostages in Gaza, as well as a cease-fire for humanitarian aid

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani shake hands after their joint press conference at Diwan Annex, in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024.

Mark Schiefelbein, Pool, Associated Press

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said a cease-fire deal is possible, but said there continues to be “a lot of work to be done” during his Middle East visit.

So far on the trip, he has stopped in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Qatar, and is currently in Israel. This is his fifth visit to the region since Oct. 7, per The Associated Press.

“The best path forward, the most effective path forward right now to get an extended period of calm and to work toward an end to the conflict, is through an agreement on the hostages,” Blinken said during a visit with Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, per a statement.

Blinken’s visit comes after the U.S. carried out additional “strikes against Houthi missiles in Yemen on Sunday,” BBC reported.

What we know about the cease-fire negotiations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’ proposal Wednesday that included a three-phase cease-fire deal.

The proposal included calls “for a permanent cease-fire, reconstruction of Gaza, a lifting of the blockade, and the release of Palestinian prisoners,” The New York Times reported. Netanyahu has objected to some of these requests.

  • The deal would last 45 days and would involve a release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, some of whom are serving lifetime sentences, per CNN.
  • The demands do not include an end to the war, which is a shift from Hamas’ earlier demands — this proposal says, “Negotiations for a permanent ceasefire would take place during the truce and the remaining hostages would only be released once a final deal to end the war was agreed,” per CNN.

More than 27,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza, and more than 64,000 people have been injured in the conflict. Around 85% of the Palestinian population has been displaced.

What is Antony Blinken hoping to accomplish in Middle East visit?

The top American diplomat is hoping to “reach an agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages and includes a humanitarian pause that will allow for sustained, increased delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” according to the State Department.

He will also likely discuss what a post-war world would like in the region. The U.S. has asked Israel if it would consider a two-state solution with Palestine, but Israel has vehemently denied the idea until “Israel crushes Hamas’ military and governing abilities,” The Hill reported.

According to The Hill, “Saudi officials say the kingdom is still interested in normalizing relations with Israel in a potentially landmark deal, but only if there is a credible plan to create a Palestinian state.”