Blinken Urges Arab Leaders to Pressure Hamas for Ceasefire Deal

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Arab leaders to press Hamas into accepting a U.S.-proposed ceasefire to end Gaza's eight-month-long war. Blinken's direct appeal comes amidst critical negotiations to avoid extending the conflict into Lebanon. Blinken will meet with regional leaders, emphasizing urgency and post-war reconstruction plans.

Reuters | Updated: 10-06-2024 22:18 IST | Created: 10-06-2024 22:18 IST
Blinken Urges Arab Leaders to Pressure Hamas for Ceasefire Deal
Antony Blinken

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Arab leaders to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal outlined ten days ago by U.S. President Joe Biden to end the eight month-long war in Gaza. Blinken is on his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip comes at a critical time as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire deal with Israel and ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon.

Blinken said Hamas was the only outlier in not accepting the proposal for a three-phase deal involving the release of hostages and talks toward an end to fighting, to which he said Israel had agreed. Hamas said in May it had agreed to a deal for a ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoners swap, but an Israeli official said at the time the deal was not acceptable to Israel because terms had been "softened."

"My message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region, is if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes," Blinken told reporters before departing Egypt, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. A senior Hamas official told Reuters that Blinken's Gaza ceasefire comments were "biased to Israel".

Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday evening, where he was meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is scheduled to meet Defense Minister Yoav Gallant later on Monday. The top U.S. diplomat said he would also discuss plans for governance and reconstruction in post-conflict Gaza during his trip, on which he will also meet regional leaders in Jordan and Qatar.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland. The visit comes after U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions 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 as recently as a few hours ago. There was a sense of urgency on getting an answer from Hamas on the deal, he said, but declined to further detail his talks.

Ceasefire talks have intensified since Biden's speech and CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the plan. Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long 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 Gaza's health ministry. Blinken did not respond to the question of whether the raid had worsened hopes for a deal.

"Ultimately, I can't put myself - none of us can put ourselves - in the minds of Hamas or its leaders," Blinken said. "So we don't know what the answer will be." Blinken's trip comes after Israeli minister Benny Gantz announced his resignation from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's emergency government on Sunday, withdrawing the only centrist power in the embattled leader's otherwise far-right coalition during the war in Gaza.

Blinken is expected to meet with Gantz on Tuesday, a senior State Department official said. They have met during previous visits by Blinken to Israel. The departure of Gantz's centrist party will not pose an immediate threat to the government. But it could have a serious impact nonetheless, leaving Netanyahu reliant on hardliners, with no end in sight to the war and a possible escalation in fighting with Lebanese Hezbollah.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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