US Secretary of State Blinken on Mideast tour to press for Gaza truce

US Secretary of State Blinken on Mideast tour to press for Gaza truce

Riyadh: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia for another Middle East crisis tour, hoping to secure a new truce as Gaza saw no let-up in fighting.

On his fifth trip to the region, Blinken landed in Riyadh on Monday and was later expected to visit Israel and mediators Egypt and Qatar.

Ahead of the trip he stressed the need for “urgently addressing humanitarian needs in Gaza”, after aid groups have repeatedly sounded the alarm over the devastating impact nearly four months of war have had on the besieged Gaza Strip.

Blinken is expected to discuss a truce framework not yet signed off on by either Hamas or Israel. The protracted diplomatic efforts have become more urgent with a surge in attacks across the region by Hamas allies, triggering counterattacks by the United States and its partners.The proposed truce would pause fighting for an initial six weeks as Hamas frees prisoners in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and more aid enters Gaza, according to a Hamas source.

Netanyahu, who has faced divisions within his cabinet and public fury over the fate of the remaining hostages, said Israel “will not accept” demands made by Hamas for an exchange.

The premier’s Likud party quoted him as saying the terms “should be similar to the previous agreement”, which saw a ratio of captives exchanged for Palestinian prisoners during a November truce.

More than a dozen countries, led by top donors the United States and Germany, suspended their funding to the aid agency after the claims surfaced. Spain however said it would give an additional 3.5 million euros ($3.8 million) “so that UNRWA can maintain its activities in the short term”, said Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.Jordan’s King Abdullah II urged donors to maintain support for the agency “to allow it to provide its vital humanitarian services... particularly in light of the tragic humanitarian situation in Gaza”, a royal statement said.