Israel halted fighting in the Gaza Strip on Monday and waited for Hamas officials to respond to a proposal to release the remaining hostages, Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken sought to rally support for such an agreement.
A Hamas-affiliated broadcaster, al-Aqsa, said on Sunday that Hamas was still holding consultations on the proposal, a week after it was made. While representatives from the United States, Egypt and Qatar sought a common position, the group's leaders had previously signaled significant gaps between the two sides.
Mr. who was going to visit Saudi Arabia for the first time. Blinken hopes to lead negotiations on a series of interim agreements to end the war in Gaza, and a deal to free hostages will be central to that effort.
Jake Sullivan, President Biden's national security adviser, told CBS' “Face the Nation” on Sunday that “the ball is in Hamas' court.”
He added that a deal to free hostages, suspend fighting and allow humanitarian aid to reach Gaza was “crucial”.
“We are going to press relentlessly, as the president has done, including recently in calls with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, two countries that are our central brokers in this effort,” Mr. Sullivan said.
The October 7 attacks led by Hamas, which Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people and took more than 200 hostage, sparked a war with Israel and touched off a broader crisis in the Middle East. Israel has exchanged fire with members of Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Houthi fighters, who control part of Yemen, have opened fire on ships sailing from the Suez Canal.
Other Iran-backed militias have carried out attacks against US bases in the region, including recently killing three US soldiers in Jordan.
The U.S. has responded to Houthi attacks, including Sunday, and the Jordan offensive with separate military strikes this weekend against Iranian forces and the militias they support at seven bases in Syria and Iraq. Top US national security officials said on Sunday that further retaliation against Iran-backed militants is still planned.
But Mr. Sullivan said he believed those efforts were a separate issue from negotiations to reach a cease-fire agreement that both sides avoided after a week-long standoff in November.
“We believe that the actions we took on Friday and the actions we took against the Houthis last night were not connected to the hostage negotiations,” he told NBC's “Meet the Press.” “Now, at this point, we believe that it is Hamas that will come forward and respond to a serious proposal.”
— Aaron Boxerman And Michael D. Sheer