Antony Blinken
Antony BlinkenREUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/Pool

The State Department officially announced on Friday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will arrive in Israel for a visit next week, his fifth visit to the region since the start of the war against Hamas on October 7.

According to a statement from State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and Palestinian Authority-assigned territories from February 4-8, 2024.

“The Secretary will continue diplomatic efforts to reach an agreement that secures the release of all remaining hostages and includes a humanitarian pause that will allow for sustained, increased delivery of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” said Miller.

“He will continue work to prevent the spread of the conflict, while reaffirming that the United States will take appropriate steps to defend its personnel and the right to freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. The Secretary will also continue discussions with partners on how to establish a more integrated, peaceful region that includes lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he added.

Last month, during his previous visit to Israel, Blinken arrived in Ramallah to meet with Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

During the meeting, dozens of Palestinian Arabs protested against Blinken nearby, chanting: "You are not welcome here." PA security forces arrived at the scene and attempted to disperse the protesters.

Also during the last visit, Blinken took part in a meeting of the War Cabinet, during which he announced to those present the decision to allow flour to be brought into Gaza, despite the ministers having never made such a decision.

His latest visit comes as efforts continue to secure a hostage release deal between Israel and Hamas.

A senior Hamas official said on Friday that the terrorist group will respond “very soon” to a proposal that includes extended pauses in the fighting in Gaza and phased exchanges of Hamas-held hostages for Palestinian Arabs imprisoned in Israel.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published details about the deal which was proposed.

According to the report, Israel and Hamas are considering a three-part deal that would see the release of Israeli hostages beginning with a six-week ceasefire.

In the first phase of the proposal being discussed, civilians including the elderly, sick and children will be released. At the same time, residents of Gaza will be able to move freely throughout the Strip.

In the next phase, which will only come if the first phase is successful, female soldiers will be released. According to the report, Hamas has demanded the release of 150 terrorists for every female soldier who will be released, a demand that has been defined as a "point of contention" between the sides.

A senior Israeli official later on Thursday urged caution on the prospects of a hostage release deal being reached with Hamas.

Speaking to NBC News, the official said that, given all the challenges, it’s unclear if the deal will come together.

“I don’t think it’s more than 50/50 it will materialize,” the official said.

(Israel National News' North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Israel National News articles, however, is Israeli time.)