Blinken urges Middle East leaders to pressure Hamas for Gaza ceasefire

Blinken urges Middle East leaders to pressure Hamas for Gaza ceasefire

CAIRO/TEL AVIV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Arab leaders to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal outlined ten days ago by US President Joe Biden , to end the eight-month war in Gaza.

Blinken is on his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip comes as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire deal with Israel and ensure the war does not expand to Lebanon.

Blinken said Hamas was the lone outlier in not accepting the proposal for a three-phase deal involving the release of hostages and talks to end the fighting, which he said Israel had agreed to.

Hamas said in May that it had reached an agreement for a ceasefire and a hostage-for-prisoner exchange, but an Israeli official said at the time that the agreement was not acceptable to Israel because the terms had been “softened.”

“My message to governments across the region, to people across the region, is that if you want a ceasefire, put pressure on Hamas to say yes,” Blinken told reporters before departing Egypt, where met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters that Blinken’s comments on the Gaza ceasefire were “biased toward Israel.”

MEETING WITH NETANYAHU

Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday evening, where he briefed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on “ongoing diplomatic efforts to plan for the post-conflict period,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a readout of the meeting. .

Blinken also “reiterated that the proposal on the table would unlock the possibility of calm along Israel’s northern border and greater integration with countries in the region,” Miller said.

Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel have been exchanging fire across the Israel-Lebanon border since the start of the Gaza war. Both sides say they are prepared for a possible escalation.

The top US diplomat said he would also discuss plans for governance and reconstruction in Gaza after the conflict during meetings with regional leaders in Jordan and Qatar.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took about 250 more hostage, according to Israeli counts. In response, Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the Hamas-run territory’s Health Ministry said in its update on Sunday, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland.

US President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal by Israel that provides for a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Blinken said Egyptian officials had been in communication with Hamas just hours ago.

There was a sense of urgency to get a response from Hamas about the deal, he said, but he declined to give more details about their talks.

Ceasefire talks have intensified since Biden’s speech and CIA Director William Burns met with senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the plan.

Biden has repeatedly stated that ceasefires were close in recent months, but there was only a one-week truce, in November.

Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October in a raid in Gaza on Saturday, during which 274 Palestinians were killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.

Blinken did not respond when asked if the raid had worsened hopes for a deal.

“Ultimately, I cannot put myself – none of us can put ourselves – in the mind of Hamas or its leaders,” Blinken said. “So we don’t know what the response will be.”

Blinken’s trip comes after Israeli Minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Netanyahu’s emergency government on Sunday, removing the only centrist power in the leader’s far-right coalition during the war in Gaza.

Blinken is expected to meet with Gantz on Tuesday, a senior State Department official said. They met during Blinken’s previous visits to Israel.

The departure of Gantz’s centrist party will not pose an immediate threat to the government. But it could still have a serious impact, leaving Netanyahu dependent on hardliners, with no end to the war in sight and a possible escalation in fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed. Reuters)

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