Following a diplomatic tour in West Asia, as the region witnesses a deepening conflict between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken is headed back to Washington only to return to Israel in a few days.
Since 12 October, Blinken has visited Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt, in what The Guardian has called a "last-ditch attempt to reduce the impact of a potentially catastrophic all-out Israeli land assault on Gaza."
Blinken called for pressure on Hamas during a meeting with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, whose state has grown warmer to Israel, on Sunday, 16 October, where the two leaders discussed the situation for nearly an hour.
State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the two leaders "affirmed their shared commitment to protecting civilians and to advancing stability across the Middle East and beyond."
Blinken convened with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in Riyadh before proceeding to the United Arab Emirates, aiming to find solutions for civilians caught in the crossfire and tackle the escalating humanitarian situation.
During their meeting in Riyadh, Blinken and Prince Faisal underscored the significance of reducing harm to civilians as Israel braced for an expected operation against Hamas following the militant group's unprecedented strike on Israel a week prior.
Like during his meeting with MBS, Blinken also cited the need for humanitarian assistances and safe passage for those wishing to leave Gaza with leaders from the United Arab Emirates .
Importantly, he said that ahead of his return to Jerusalem, the Rafah border crossing between Egypt to Gaza is set to open. However, the US state secretary did not specify a timeline for the re-opening.
The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt is set to reopen, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, ahead of his expected return to Jerusalem on the next leg of an international round of diplomacy aimed at preventing the conflict from spreading.
"We’re putting in place with the United Nations, with Egypt, with Israel, with others, a mechanism by which to get the assistance in and to get it to people who need it," Blinken said while speaking to the press.
Blinken has been touring the region after over 1,500 Hamas terrorists infiltrated Israel from the Gaza Strip on 7 October and began a murderous rampage through the south, slaughtering some 1,300, mostly civilians, and taking about 150 hostages captive to Gaza. Since then Hamas has continued to rain rockets on southern and central Israel, causing more injuries and deaths.
“Very productive,” Blinken said when asked about the meeting after returning to his hotel.
Blinken also reached out to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, urging China to use its influence in the Middle East to prevent further escalation of the conflict. Blinken's spokesperson refrained from providing details about Wang's response but emphasised that the US believes both countries share an interest in maintaining stability in the region.
"While Israel rightfully defends its people and endeavours to prevent such incidents in the future, it is crucial that we all prioritise the safety of civilians. We are working together towards this common goal," Blinken affirmed.
"None of us wish to witness the suffering of civilians, regardless of their location, be it in Israel, Gaza, or any other part of the region," he added.