Blinken to meet Netanyahu amidst increased tension

Tel Aviv:  US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Israel on Friday and meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior leaders. Blinken is also meeting senior Egyptian and Saudi leaders in Cairo and Riyadh.

Blinken’s visit to Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, is to hold talks with all sides regarding the release of hostages as well as a possible Israeli ground offensive in Rafah.

US President Joe Biden has recently talked to Netanyahu not to go to Rafah as it could lead to the death of a large number of Palestinian civilians, including women and children. About 1.3 million citizens are living in the Rafah area.

On the other hand, Egypt has told Israeli and American officials that it will strongly oppose the Rafah operation, because it will lead to the exodus of a large number of refugees to Egypt’s Sinai region bordering Rafah. Meanwhile, mediation talks between Israel and Hamas are going on in Doha, Qatar.

Israel has taken a hard line and is not agreeing to many of the demands put forward by Hamas on the release of the hostages.

Israeli Defense Ministry sources told newsmen that the talks will proceed only on the conditions put forward by the Israeli side. Israel has demanded a two-phase release of all hostages in Hamas custody and has told mediators that Palestinian prisoners who have committed heinous crimes cannot be freed.

According to Israeli Defense Ministry sources, Israel’s intelligence agencies, including Mossad and Shin Bet, have told the Israeli government that Hamas has completely collapsed and there are only a few remnants of Hamas in Rafah. It is also reported that only four Hamas battalions are left in Rafah and if they too are destroyed, Hamas will have no choice but to surrender to Israel. It remains to be seen whether Blinken is able to stop the Israeli army’s attack in Rafah or not.


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