US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed ahead with a diplomatic tour of the Middle East on Tuesday, meeting Egyptian leaders as part of his efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in exchange for the release of hostages.
Blinken’s visit also comes amid growing concerns in Egypt about Israel’s stated intentions to expand the combat in Gaza to areas on the Egyptian border that are crammed with displaced Palestinians.
Israel’s defense minister has said Israel’s offensive will eventually reach the town of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge and are now living in increasingly miserable conditions.
Egypt has warned that an Israeli deployment along the border would threaten the peace treaty the two countries signed over four decades ago. Egypt fears an expansion of combat to the Rafah area could push terrified Palestinian civilians across the border, a scenario Egypt has said it is determined to prevent.
Blinken, who was meeting Tuesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sissi in Cairo, has said repeatedly that Palestinians must not be forced out of Gaza.