U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to return to Israel this week in an effort by the Biden administration to extend the fragile truce between Israel and the terror organization Hamas.
Washington hopes this arrangement will secure the release of more hostages, including U.S. foreign citizens currently being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
This will be Blinken’s third visit to the Jewish state since Hamas invaded southern Israel and massacred some 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, and took some 240 hostages into Gaza. The vast majority of the Israeli victims were civilians, as is the case with the foreign nationals that Hamas terrorists abducted.
Blinken is also expected to meet Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in his Ramallah headquarters in the West Bank.
Ahead of his previous visit to Israel in early November, Blinken tweeted that his talks with Israeli leaders would focus on Israel’s right to self-defense and solving the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“Returned to Israel for meetings with @IsraeliPM Netanyahu, President @Isaac Herzog and other government leaders. Will discuss Israel’s right to defend itself and our work to get humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” Blinken wrote on X.
Now, nearly a month has passed since Biden’s last visit and those priorities seem unchanged. In addition, Washington has been urging Israel to avoid the mass evacuation of civilians in southern Gaza, as took place in the northern part of the coastal enclave earlier in the war between Hamas and Israeli forces.
The State of Israel and the Hamas terror organization initially agreed to a four-day pause in fighting, which took effect last Friday and in which 50 Israeli hostages were released in exchange for 150 Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed on Monday that Washington is in favor of extending the truce. However, he admitted that this requires that Hamas continue to release hostages in Gaza.
U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Blinken will “discuss Israel’s right to defend itself consistent with international humanitarian law, as well as continued efforts to secure the release of remaining hostages, protect civilian life during Israel’s operations in Gaza, and accelerate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.”
On Monday, the Biden administration claimed that Hamas and Israel had agreed to extend the truce by another two days. The Israeli government has agreed to extend the truce for a few days provided that Hamas releases at least 10 hostages per day.
On Wednesday, Hamas indicated that it is interested in extending the truce with an additional four days, according to a source close to the Islamist terror organization. The source claims that Hamas “would be able to release Israeli prisoners that it, other resistance movements and other parties hold during this period, according to the terms of the existing truce,” meaning that Hamas is to let free 10 Israeli hostages per day in exchange for 30 Palestinian security prisoners being released from Israeli prison.
Hamas has so far mainly released Israeli women and children, and the elderly.
The Biden administration and Qatar, which are helping to mediate the negotiations, are reportedly pushing diplomatically for an expanded hostage deal to include Israeli civilian men and IDF soldiers.
However, in return, Hamas would demand that Israel release more senior terrorists, including convicted murderers. It remains to be seen whether Israel would agree to these terms.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.