Dec 27, 2023 - World

Blinken expected to visit Middle East next week for talks on Gaza war

Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after their meeting in Tel Aviv on Oct. 12. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken is expected to travel to the Middle East late next week to discuss the Gaza war, five U.S., Israeli and Arab officials told Axios.

The big picture: This will be Blinken's fourth trip to the Middle East and his fifth visit to Israel since the war started. His trip is part of an ongoing series of high-level visits by Biden administration officials to conduct constant consultations with the Israeli government and regional partners about the crisis.

Driving the news: The officials said Blinken is expected to arrive in Israel late next week — likely on Friday.

  • He is also expected to visit the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
  • The State Department said it had no travel to announce at this time.
  • A U.S. official said the expected stops on the trip are not final and could still change.

Blinken on Tuesday met in Washington with Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.

  • Dermer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's close confidant, also met with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. A White House official said the meeting focused on planning for a transition from high-intensity fighting in Gaza to a different phase of the war that would largely focus on high-value Hamas targets.
  • Sullivan and Dermer also discussed practical steps to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza, minimize harm to civilians and efforts to bring home the remaining hostages, the official said.
  • According to the official, Sullivan and Dermer spoke about the planning for after the war, including governance and security in Gaza, a political horizon for the Palestinian people, and continued work on normalization and integration of Israel in the region.

Zoom in: The Israeli military on Tuesday expanded its ground operation in Gaza to the area between Gaza City and Khan Younes — one of the most densely population areas of the enclave.

  • More than 21,100 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.
  • Israeli officials have warned the war will likely last for "many more months." But the IDF push into this area is likely the last major effort in the high-intensity phase of the fighting, which Israeli officials have said is expected to be completed by the end of January.
  • Israel has said its goal in the war is to bring all hostages held by militant groups home and to destroy Hamas, whose militants killed at least 1,200 people during the Oct. 7 attack, according to Israeli officials.

Go deeper: UN Security Council calls for aid boost to Gaza as conditions rapidly deteriorate

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