Blinken off to Mideast to push peace talks after Gaza truce

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to the Middle East to press the Israelis, Palestinians and regional players to build on last week’s Gaza cease-fire by laying the groundwork for a resumption in peace talks. President Joe Biden says Blinken departs Monday for Israel, the West Bank, Jordan and Egypt. It will be the Biden administration’s highest-level in-person meetings on this month’s crisis. Blinken will not meet anyone from Hamas. Biden’s administration was criticized for its perceived hands-off initial response to the deadly violence, including from Democrats in Congress who demanded it take a tougher line on Israel and its response to rocket attacks from Palestinian militant groups in Gaza.