tuesday briefing blinkens high stakes middle east trip

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Smoke rose over Gaza yesterday after Israeli strikes.Said Khatib/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, landed in Saudi Arabia yesterday, beginning his visit to the Middle East. He is trying to prevent the Israel-Hamas conflict from becoming a broader regional war — and to rally allies around a proposal to release hostages in Gaza.

Here’s the latest.

Blinken’s visit comes as the U.S. and its Arab allies wait for Hamas to respond to a proposal for a potential cease-fire. Under the proposed agreement, Hamas would return more than 100 Israeli hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting there and for the release of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

The Biden administration is also pursuing further retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed militias that have targeted U.S. troops. A U.S. official said Blinken would seek to reassure U.S. allies that the strikes should not be interpreted as an escalation of fighting in the Middle East.

Politics: Many blame Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for the security failures that led to the Oct. 7 attacks and want him out of office. While there’s no clear way to force early elections, there are other ways to oust him.

The Red Sea: The Houthi attacks on commercial ships are driving up freight costs.

Strikes: A drone attacked a base that houses U.S. and allied troops in eastern Syria, killing six fighters from a Kurdish military group, according to the group’s official media outlet.

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