Feb 07, 2024, 10:44PM ISTSource: TOI.in
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken conducted a crucial meeting with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, emphasizing a strategic and assertive approach amid the ongoing Gaza conflict. The closed-door rendezvous, held at 11:50 am local time, lasted slightly over an hour.Blinken’s visit aims to address escalating international and domestic pressure, pushing for a “humanitarian pause” in the Gaza conflict. He is expected to travel to the West Bank as part of his trip.The day before the meeting, Blinken expressed his intent to engage Israeli officials in discussions concerning Hamas’ response to a proposal aimed at securing the release of remaining hostages and achieving a sustained cessation of the Gaza conflict.During his visit, Blinken also convened with Israel Defence Forces Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi and is scheduled to engage with other paramount officials. The comprehensive Hamas response outlines three phases, each lasting 45 days, including the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, a substantial humanitarian effort, and unrestricted movement for people across Gaza.The Israeli offensive, initiated four months ago in response to a Hamas attack, has inflicted a severe humanitarian toll on Gaza, causing tens of thousands of casualties and pushing the population to the brink of famine. The offensive triggered regional attacks by Iranian-backed proxy groups, including the Houthis in the Red Sea, claiming the lives of three US service members.The Biden administration faces domestic criticism over its handling of the Gaza situation. Blinken’s trip, spanning Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Qatar, underscores the focus on discussions regarding the Middle East situation. On both his current and last trips to the Middle East, Blinken has emphasized the need for the Israeli government to make “difficult” decisions, including moving toward a two-state solution to achieve normalization with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.