Blinken travels to UAE, Saudi Arabia for next leg of Mideast tour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia later today (Monday) before heading to Israel, as he continues his Mideast tour to discuss postwar Gaza and head off a wider regional conflagration amid intensifying skirmishes between Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.

He is set for talks with Israeli leaders on Tuesday.

Blinken was in Jordan and Qatar Sunday at the start of a five-day diplomatic effort in the Middle East seeking to avert a wider war in the region. He is also due to visit the West Bank and Egypt this week.

“This is a moment of profound tension for the region. This is a conflict that could easily metastasize, causing even more insecurity and suffering,” Blinken said in Doha before heading to Abu Dhabi.

Blinken said he would tell Israeli officials that it is imperative they do more to prevent civilian casualties in Gaza and that Palestinian civilians must be allowed to return home and not be pressed to leave Gaza.

The trip comes after an alleged Israeli drone strike in Beirut killed deputy Hamas chief Saleh al-Arouri and Israel exchanged fire with Hezbollah across its northern border with Lebanon. Washington is also rallying allies to deter attacks on Red Sea shipping by Houthi rebels who control most of Yemen.

Washington wants Israel’s Arab neighbors to play a role in reconstruction, governance, and security in Gaza in the expectation that Israel’s assault will remove Hamas, which has run the territory since 2007, officials have said.

The US delegation aims to gather Arab states’ views on the future of Gaza before taking those positions to Israel, the US official said, acknowledging that stances would be far apart.

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