Blinken due in Mideast in new bid to secure Gaza truce

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to return Wednesday to the Middle East in a new bid to secure a truce in the Israel-Hamas war.

Following a failed attempt to secure a ceasefire in the war in the Gaza Strip by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan last week, a new round of negotiations hosted by key mediator Qatar has begun.

On the ground, however, there was no sign of letup in the war that has devastated much of the Gaza Strip and forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to seek refuge in the south of the besieged territory.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out after an unprecedented attack by Hamas on Oct. 7 resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel has responded with a relentless offensive against Hamas that has killed at least 31,819 people, most of them women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry.

 'Starvation as method of war' 

Nearly six months into the war, Israel's key backer the United States has repeatedly called on its ally to allow an increase in the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Secretary of State Blinken was due in regional powerhouse Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and in Egypt, which neighbours Gaza and has been involved in previous mediation efforts, on Thursday.

He had earlier this week said everyone in Gaza was now suffering "severe levels of acute food insecurity".

"That's the first time an entire population has been so classified," he said during a visit to the Philippines.

A U.N.-backed assessment meanwhile said...

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