Blinken to travel to Saudi Arabia amid renewed push for a hostage deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to Saudi Arabia this week for meetings with regional partners, including Palestinian, Egyptian and Qatari leaders, to discuss efforts for securing the release of hostages and a cease-fire in Gaza, the State Department said in a statement. Blinken, who will participate in a World Economic Forum meeting during his visit, will discuss with regional partners the recent uptick in delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, it added.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Germany and France are expected at the WEF meeting, alongside the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud, WEF President Borge Brende said at a news conference. “There is some new momentum now in the talks around the hostages and also for possible way out of the impasse that we are faced in Gaza,” he said.

In March, Blinken traveled to the country to discuss a plan to normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel as a path to a two-state solution espoused by the United States.

Blinken’s visit comes amid a renewed push for a deal with Hamas, which released videos of three hostages last week, including of a dual U.S. citizen. The latest video, released Saturday, shows U.S.-born Keith Siegel, 64, and Omri Miran, 47, who were taken hostage on Oct. 7 when Hamas killed an estimated 1,200 people and kidnapped more than 250 in Israel. Earlier in the week, another video featured U.S.-Israeli citizen Hersh Goldberg-Polin.

The released footage has added to pressure on Israel to negotiate a deal for their release.

Here’s what else to know

Pro-Palestinian protests unfolded outside the White House correspondents’ dinner on Saturday, with demonstrators posing as slain Gaza journalists outside the Washington Hilton. They laid out press vests to mark those killed in the enclave and unfurled a Palestinian flag out of a window at the venue.

More than 600 people have been arrested on campuses across the United States for demonstrations over the Israel-Gaza war, as university leaders struggle to balance demonstrators’ freedom of expression with the need to keep campuses safe and welcoming. Jill Stein, a presidential candidate for the Green Party, said late Saturday on X that she, her campaign manager and deputy campaign manager were arrested at Washington University in St. Louis.

Activists who organized an aid flotilla to Gaza said Saturday that their mission was canceled after authorities from Guinea-Bissau withdrew their country’s flag from two of the three ships. The flotilla was scheduled to depart from a port near Istanbul on Friday after multiple delays. On Thursday, the Guinea-Bissau International Ships Registry requested a last-minute inspection, activists said in a statement, calling the decision to remove the flags “blatantly political.”

At least 34,388 people have been killed and 77,437 injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilians and combatants but says the majority of the dead are women and children. Israel estimates that about 1,200 people were killed in Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack, including more than 300 soldiers, and says 261 soldiers have been killed since its military operation in Gaza began.

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