Blinken pushes for Israel-Hamas ceasefire as hostage rescue complicates talks

Blinken will begin his eighth diplomatic mission to the region on Monday, meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo before traveling to Israel, Jordan, and Qatar.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returns to the Middle East this week in a renewed push for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as a proposed deal hangs in the balance following a dramatic Israeli hostage rescue in Gaza and turmoil within the Netanyahu government.

Blinken will begin his eighth diplomatic mission to the region on Monday, meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi in Cairo before travelling to Israel, Jordan, and Qatar. His visit comes 10 days after Hamas received a proposed three-phase ceasefire plan but has yet to firmly respond.

The daring Israeli operation that freed four hostages held by Hamas in Gaza resulted in the deaths of at least 274 Palestinian civilians. While praised by President Biden and U.S. officials, the raid may have emboldened Israel while hardening Hamas’ resolve, potentially complicating ceasefire efforts.

In his talks with Egyptian and Qatari leaders mediating with Hamas, Blinken will stress persuading the group to accept the phased proposal for a hostage release, temporary truce, and eventual full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

However, obstacles remain beyond Hamas. Although the deal was described as an Israeli initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed scepticism over its publicly outlined terms and rejected calls to cease all fighting until Hamas is defeated.

Netanyahu’s far-right allies have threatened to collapse his government if he implements the plan. Moreover, Benny Gantz resigned Sunday from Israel’s three-member War Cabinet after vowing to do so if Netanyahu did not formulate a new postwar Gaza strategy in the wake of the hostage operation.

As Blinken aims to salvage ceasefire prospects, the aftermath of the hostage raid has added new complexities to an already fraught process. Securing both Israeli and Hamas approval may prove an immense diplomatic challenge in the weeks ahead.