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Blinken in Israel amid push for ceasefire

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The top U.S. diplomat is making his 6th visit since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel overnight Tuesday for his 6th visit since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre.

According to the State Department, Blinken is set to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at 11:15 a.m., IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi at 12:15 p.m., Defense Minister Yoav Gallant at 1:30 p.m. and President Isaac Herzog at 3 p.m.

It remains unknown if Blinken will meet with War Cabinet Minister Benny Gantz or opposition leader Yair Lapid.

The unusual request to meet privately with Halevi is being construed as an effort by Blinken to circumvent the political echelon and possibly receive a different perspective on the state of the war against Hamas.

Blinken was in the country last month for a series of reportedly tense meetings with Netanyahu and other members of the War Cabinet, as he pressed Jerusalem to shift towards a less intensive third phase in its war against Hamas.

During his last visit, Blinken also expressed support for “tangible steps” toward the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, speaking during a meeting with Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

Before arriving in Israel, Blinken visited Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The visit comes as Israel marks exactly four months since Hamas launched the war with its invasion and slaughter of 1,200 people.

On Tuesday night, Hamas announced its long-awaited response to a proposed hostages-for-ceasefire deal with Israel, in what Jerusalem said amounted to a rejection of the outline.

The Ynet news site cited senior officials in Jerusalem as saying that while Hamas claimed it had agreed to the framework as negotiated by Doha and Cairo, the terror group was demanding “impossible conditions” from Israel.

“In any case, Israel will not stop the fighting. Hamas’s response amounts to a negative answer,” the officials said, adding that the Prime Minister’s Office was still drafting an official response to mediators.

Blinken on Tuesday said the Biden administration was reviewing Hamas’s response and stressed it was “essential” to go ahead.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. But we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” he stated.

Israel has repeatedly rejected proposals for a long-term or permanent ceasefire and maintains that it will continue in its goal to eradicate Hamas, return some 136 hostages still being held and ensure that Gaza can never again pose a threat to the Jewish state.

Image: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken holds a press conference in Tel Aviv on Jan. 9. 2024. Credit: Chuck Kennedy/U.S. State Department.

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