Blinken heads to Mideast to discuss Gaza ceasefire and release of hostages

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has departed for the Middle East. The State Department says he plans to speak with "regional partners" about ongoing efforts to achieve a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and secure the release of hostages being held there.

Blinken departed by plane from an air force base in suburban Washington on Sunday. He will travel to Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel through Wednesday.

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told ABC News that Hamas has not fully rejected a hostage deal. He said the group is considering a proposal presented by Israel.

Kirby said the fighting in Gaza will stop for six weeks, if the proposal is accepted. He added that Washington hopes "something more enduring" will be put in place when the temporary ceasefire ends.

Kirby also said that Secretary Blinken will speak with Israeli officials about their intentions regarding their planned ground operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. Blinken wants to know where they are in the planning stages.

Kirby said Israel has assured the US that it will not invade Rafah until Washington has had a chance to share its perspectives and concerns with the Middle Eastern nation.