US Assistant secretary of state visits Middle East for Gaza cease-fire discussions


(MENAFN) Barbara Leaf, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, is embarking on a diplomatic mission across the Middle East from July 8-14, according to an announcement by the State Department on Monday. Her travel itinerary includes visits to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, and Italy.

Leaf's primary objective during this trip is to engage with government officials in discussions aimed at advancing diplomatic efforts to secure a cease-fire agreement in Gaza. She will also focus on advocating for the release of hostages and ensuring the effective distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza. The State Department emphasized that Leaf will also discuss plans for the post-conflict period, emphasizing the importance of building lasting peace and stability in the region.

Concurrently, there are ongoing diplomatic efforts involving key figures from Israel and the United States. Ronen Bar, head of Israel's Shin Bet internal security services, and CIA Director William Burns are currently in Egypt, engaging in discussions regarding a potential cease-fire in Gaza and a prisoner exchange agreement between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas.

Additionally, reports from Israeli media suggest that David Barnea, head of Israel's Mossad intelligence service, will travel to Qatar to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, CIA Director Burns, and Egypt's intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. These discussions are pivotal in ongoing mediation efforts facilitated by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, despite challenges posed by Israeli leadership and the complex dynamics of the conflict.

The situation in Gaza continues to draw international concern and condemnation, particularly directed at Israel for its military actions since October 7, 2023. The conflict has led to significant casualties among Palestinians, mainly civilians, and extensive damage to infrastructure. Efforts to alleviate humanitarian suffering are further complicated by a stringent blockade that restricts access to essential supplies such as food, water, and medicine, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the region.

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