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Blinken arrives in Israel to press for Gaza ceasefire deal

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The top American diplomat on Monday in Riyadh urged Hamas to accept Jerusalem’s “extraordinarily generous” truce offer.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken touched down in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night, ahead of meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Isaac Herzog and other top officials.

Blinken traveled to Jordan earlier Tuesday, visiting a warehouse of the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization, where aid shipments from U.S. charities are gathered.

“I’m now able to go to Israel tomorrow and go over with the Israeli government the things that still need to be done if the test is going to be met of making sure that people have what they need,” Blinken told reporters in Amman.

“And I’ll be doing that tomorrow directly with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other members of the Israeli government,” he added.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum summit in Saudi Arabia earlier this week, Blinken urged Hamas to accept Israel’s “extraordinarily generous” hostages-for-ceasefire offer.

The top American diplomat is touring the region to press for a ceasefire as the Israeli military prepares to enter Rafah city in the southern Gaza Strip. Jerusalem says the operation in Hamas’s last bastion in Gaza is essential to winning the war, but the Biden administration opposes a full-scale invasion.

It is Blinken’s seventh Mideast diplomatic swing and ninth visit to Israel since the Oct. 7 Hamas-led massacre and ensuing war.

“Now, the quickest way to bring this to an end is to get to a ceasefire and the release of hostages. And as you said, there’s been an extraordinary effort that’s been made—and I really want to thank, profoundly, our friends from Qatar and Egypt who have been playing an instrumental role in trying to get this ceasefire and release of hostages—a major effort that’s been made over the last couple of months to get to that ceasefire, to get the hostages out,” Blinken said at the WEF meeting in Riyadh on Monday.

“And right now, as you said, Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily—extraordinarily—generous on the part of Israel. And in this moment, the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas. They have to decide, and they have to decide quickly.”

We’re at an inflection point, says @SecBlinken and must face challenges together. ‘The decisions we make in these moments are likely to have repercussions… for decades to come.’ #SpecialMeeting24 @StateDept pic.twitter.com/U9CKeouKDz

— World Economic Forum (@wef) April 29, 2024

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron also described the Israeli proposal as “generous” at the WEF summit on Monday.

Hamas reportedly met with Egyptian and Qatari mediators in Cairo on Monday to discuss the latest Israeli proposal, presented over the weekend, and are expected to deliver a response soon. A senior official with the terror group said on Sunday that they had “no major issues” with the most recent plan.

According to Cameron, the phased agreement includes potentially the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages during a 40-day pause in fighting, with the second stage involving talks on ending the war and planning for post-war control of Gaza.

“I hope Hamas do take this deal and frankly, all the pressure in the world and all the eyes in the world should be on them today saying ‘take that deal,’” said Cameron.

Closing Plenary: Rejuvenating Growth with @David_Cameron@CMShehbaz (@PakPMO), @falibrahim (@MEPSaudi), Anna Marks (@deloitte), Stéphane Bancel, @børgebrende, @MarounKeyrouz1 #SpecialMeeting24 https://t.co/RGbyR6Fq49

— World Economic Forum (@wef) April 29, 2024

The New York Times, citing three Israeli officials, reported on Monday that Israel had lowered its demand from 40 hostages to be released immediately to 33. This is because Jerusalem now believes that some of the 40, which include women, the elderly and the sick, have died in captivity.

An estimated 133 hostages remain in Gaza, 129 of whom were among the 253 kidnapped by Hamas during its Oct. 7 onslaught on the northwestern Negev. The Israel Defense Forces has confirmed the deaths of 34 of the 129.

Hebrew media reported on Monday evening that an Israeli delegation was heading back to Cairo on Tuesday for talks on a potential deal.

Israel is readying an invasion of Rafah, where four of the final six Hamas battalions are concentrated. Noncombatants are being evacuated as part of these preparations, but Blinken said on Monday that the United States “has not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected” and thus is still against the operation.

Image: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks after landing at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, April 30, 2024. Photo by David Azagury/U.S. Embassy Jerusalem.

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