Blinken arrives in Cairo at start of Mideast tour

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Egypt on Monday at the start of a regional tour to push for a much awaited Gaza ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken is expected to hold closed-door talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before heading to Jerusalem later on Monday to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Egypt, the first Arab state to recognise Israel and sign a peace treaty with it in 1979, has long mediated between Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Sisi and Blinken are expected to discuss plans to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, a key conduit for aid into the besieged territory which has been closed for a month since Israeli troops seized its Palestinian side.

The top U.S. diplomat's eighth visit to the region since war broke out in early October is intended to gather support for a proposal announced on May 31 by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Key mediators the U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been engaged in months of negotiations for a ceasefire.

A one-week truce in November — the only one so far in the Israel-Hamas war — saw some 100 hostages freed, most of them in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Under the latest proposal, Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centres and Hamas would free hostages as fighting halts for an initial six weeks, with the truce extended as negotiators seek a permanent end to hostilities.

Hamas has not formally responded to the plan, which Biden had described an Israeli, while fears have mounted that domestic Israeli politics could hamper negotiations.

While in Israel, Blinken is also expected to meet Benny Gantz, a centrist politician who on Sunday resigned from the...

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