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Egypt hosts Arab talks with Blinken on steps to end Gaza war

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry (R) met US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken privately in Cairo ahead of broader talks with Arab envoys to discuss ways of securing a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza
— Cairo (AFP)

Government ministers from five Arab countries met Thursday in Cairo with a Palestinian official to discuss the Gaza war, Egypt's foreign ministry said, ahead of talks with the US top diplomat.

In a joint statement released by Egypt's foreign ministry, the ministers called for "a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire" and the "opening of all crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip," where aid has only trickled in and the United Nations has repeatedly warned of imminent famine.

The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Jordan, as well as the Emirati minister of international cooperation and the Palestinian Authority minister for civilian affairs, the ministry said.

The Arab officials also reiterated their "rejection of any attempt to displace the Palestinians from their lands," as a looming Israeli ground invasion of Gaza's southernmost city of Rafah has raised fears for the 1.5 million mostly displaced Palestinians sheltering in the city, penned in by the Egyptian border.

Later Thursday, the ministers were due to hold talks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken who is visiting Egypt as part of his sixth tour of the region since the Israel-Hamas war started on October 7.

Blinken also had separate meetings with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss "ongoing efforts to protect Palestinian civilians and humanitarian workers in Gaza" and "secure an immediate ceasefire that includes the release of hostages", according to the state department.

Egypt is the main entry point for aid deliveries to Gaza and a key mediator in talks underway in Qatar to secure a six-week truce in the war that would allow hostages to be exchanged for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and increased aid deliveries to Gaza.

The bloodiest ever Gaza war broke out on October 7 after Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israel, resulting in about 1,160 deaths, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel has waged a relentless offensive against Hamas that has killed nearly 32,000 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

UN agencies have warned that Gaza's 2.4 million people are on the brink of famine, and UN rights chief Volker Turk said Israel may be using "starvation as a method of war".

During a visit Wednesday to Saudi Arabia, Blinken unveiled a draft US resolution for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

The United States, Israel's main backer, has previously used its UN Security Council veto to block the world body from calling for an "immediate" ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.