US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to return to the Middle East, in a fresh attempt at easing Middle East tensions, according to a US official. This comes as negotiations gain momentum regarding a proposal to halt Israel’s offensive and secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will return shortly to the Middle East, a US official said Wednesday, as negotiations gather steam on a proposal to halt Israel’s offensive and free Hamas-held hostages.

Blinken will return to the region “in the coming days,” a US official said on condition of anonymity, without specifying the destinations or dates.

It will be Blinken’s fifth trip to the region since October 7, when Hamas fighters carried out an unprecedented attack inside Israel, which has responded with an unrelenting military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Blinken on each trip has customarily visited both Israel and several Arab countries.

The latest trip comes as Israel and Hamas consider a proposal that would freeze the fighting in return for the release of hostages.

Blinken on Monday said there was “real hope” for what he called a “good, strong proposal” mediated through Qatar.

Rising tensions have also led the UK to dispatch Foreign Secretary David Cameron to Oman for talks on Tuesday.

The UK’s Foreign Office said, “The Foreign Secretary will be back in the Middle East this week focusing on the de-escalating of tensions in the region and securing an immediate pause in the conflict in Gaza.”

The statement added, “The Houthi attacks on international shipping, which are harming regional security and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, will be a major focus of his discussions.”

Cameron was in Oman for the first leg of the visit, where he met with Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr al-Busaidi in a bid to de-escalate growing regional tensions. His visit to Muscat follows regional travel last week when he met with leaders in Israel, Turkey, Qatar and the occupied Palestinian territories. He will be in Beirut on Thursday, where he will hold talks with Caretaker Prime minister Najib Mikati.

The US and the UK hope these visits could create a drive to further dialogue between all regional stakeholder countries, in a bid to pause fighting in Gaza and build momentum towards a lasting solution.

Khalil Wakim, with AFP