Antony Blinken speaks on Mideast tour in October 2023 (video clip)

In a remarkable shift in the dynamics of the ongoing conflict, it appears that Hamas may be showing signs of relenting. The terror group, which has steadfastly demanded that Israel cease its military operations, withdraw all troops from Gaza, and release dozens of Palestinians imprisoned for terror-related offenses in exchange for each Israeli hostage whether they are dead or alive, has now made a desperate plea to the United States. A senior Hamas official has urged the U.S. to exert pressure on Israel to halt its offensive against the terror group in Gaza, coinciding with the anticipated visit of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to the region, aiming to advance hostage-ceasefire negotiations.

Blinken’s visit, set to begin in Egypt and Israel today, is part of a broader diplomatic effort to prevent the conflict from spilling over into Lebanon, where Hezbollah has been consistently launching attacks on Israeli communities and military posts along the border since October 8. This visit marks Blinken’s eighth trip to the region since the horrific Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, which triggered the deadliest chapter in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We call upon the US administration to put pressure on the occupation to stop the war on Gaza, and the Hamas movement is ready to deal positively with any initiative that secures an end to the war,” stated Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official, in a tone that hints at an uncharacteristic willingness to negotiate.

In a meticulously planned diplomatic tour, Blinken is scheduled to visit Jordan and Qatar this week. His itinerary includes a meeting with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before traveling to Israel later on Monday for discussions with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Amid these high-stakes diplomatic maneuvers, the situation on the ground remains dire. Palestinian residents reported that Israeli tanks were advancing deeper towards the north in the early hours of Monday, targeting Shaboura, one of the most densely populated and terror-ridden neighborhoods at the heart of the city. Israeli forces have secured Gaza’s entire border strip with Egypt, from Rafah to the Mediterranean coast, and have invaded numerous districts in the city of 280,000 residents, causing massive displacement.

This visit by Blinken follows President Joe Biden’s proposal on May 31, which outlines a three-phase ceasefire plan from Israel. The plan envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza, providing a glimmer of hope amidst the relentless violence.

The October 7 massacre orchestrated by Hamas resulted in the deaths of 1,200 people and the kidnapping of approximately 250 others, according to Israeli reports. In retaliation, Israel launched a formidable offensive in the Gaza Strip, leading to the deaths of over 37,000 Palestinians, as reported by the Hamas-run health ministry in its latest update on Sunday.

The gravity of the situation underscores the urgency of Blinken’s mission, as the international community watches closely, hoping for a breakthrough that could pave the way for lasting peace in the region.

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