Blinken urges Hamas to accept Israeli truce proposal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Hamas to swiftly accept an Israeli proposal for a truce in the Gaza war and the release of Israeli hostages held by the Palestinian militant group.

Publication: 29.04.2024 - 17:03
Blinken urges Hamas to accept Israeli truce proposal
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Hamas negotiators were expected to meet Qatari and Egyptian mediators in Cairo on Monday to deliver a response to the phased truce proposal which Israel presented at the weekend.

"Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel," Blinken said at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas. They have to decide and they have to decide quickly," he said. "I'm hopeful that they will make the right decision."

A source briefed on the talks said Israel's proposal entailed a deal for the release of fewer than 40 of the roughly 130 hostages believed to be still held in Gaza in exchange for freeing Palestinians jailed in Israel.

A second phase of a truce would consist of a "period of sustained calm" - Israel's compromise response to a Hamas demand for a permanent ceasefire.

A total of 253 hostages were seized in a Hamas attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7 in which about 1 thousand and 200 Israelis were also killed, according to Israeli counts.

Israel retaliated by imposing a total siege on Gaza and mounting an air and ground assault that has killed about 34 thousand and 500 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities.

Palestinians have been suffering from severe shortages of food, fuel and medicine in a humanitarian crisis brought on by the offensive that has demolished much of the territory.

Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, the first stop in the latest of a series of trips to the Middle East since the Gaza war began.

He reiterated that the United States - Israel's main diplomatic supporter and weapons supplier - could not back an Israeli ground assault on Rafah if there was no plan to ensure that civilians would not be harmed.

More than a million displaced Gaza residents are crammed into Rafah, the enclave's southernmost city, having sought refuge there from Israeli bombardments. Israel says the last Hamas fighters are holed up there and it will open an offensive to root them out soon.


Blinken also said the United States and Saudi Arabia had done "intense work together" over the past few months towards a normalisation accord between the kingdom and Israel - a goal that has been disrupted by the Gaza war.

"To move forward with normalisation, two things will be required: calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian state," he said.

In return for normalisation, Arab states are pushing for Israel to accept a pathway to Palestinian statehood on land it captured in the 1967 Middle East war - something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly rejected.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah also said on Monday that an accord between Washington and Riyadh over normalisation was "very, very close".

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