US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday he will visit Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan on a tour to put pressure on Hamas after a massive attack on Israel.
Blinken announced the additional stops at a news conference after talks in Israel. The State Department has previously announced that he will head late Thursday to Jordan, where he will meet King Abdullah II and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Friday, and then Qatar later in the day.
Blinken announced he would also visit Egypt, a key player in Arab diplomacy, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which before the crisis had taken the first steps in an ambitious US-backed push to normalise relations with Israel.
In each stop, “we will continue pressing countries to help prevent the conflict from spreading and to use their leverage on Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the hostages,” Blinken told a news conference in Tel Aviv.
At least 150 Israelis and foreigners — including soldiers, civilians, children and women — have been held hostage in the Gaza Strip since Hamas’s cross-border onslaught launched on Saturday that has killed more than 1,200 people in Israel.
Israel has retaliated by raining air strikes and artillery bombardments on Hamas targets in Gaza for six days, claiming more than 1,350 lives, most of them civilians.