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Israel-Hamas war: Blinken returns to the Middle East as a cease-fire plan hangs in the balance


TEL AVIV (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday during his latest trip to the Middle East, where the U.S.’s top diplomat endorsed the move. Armistice proposal As Israel continues to face new uncertainties Hostage rescue operation It killed many Palestinians and caused turmoil in Netanyahu’s government.

Blinken began his eighth visit to the region with no concrete public response yet to the proposal from Hamas or Israel, which he received 10 days ago. The conflict began in October By meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a key negotiator of the extremist group Hamas. He then traveled to Israel to hold talks with Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

Blinken again called on Hamas to accept the plan, which he said had broad international support.

“If you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say ‘yes,'” he told reporters before departing Cairo, which will take him to Jordan and Qatar. Blinken said Israel accepted the plan, despite Netanyahu’s skepticism.

“I know there are people who are pessimistic about the prospects,” Blinken said, placing the blame on Hamas. “That’s understandable. Hamas continues to be extraordinarily cynical in its actions, which show that it cares not only about the welfare and security of Israelis, but also the Palestinians.

Although President Joe Biden, Blinken and other US officials praised Saturday’s rescue of four Israeli hostages, the operation left 274 Palestinian civilians and dead. The pressure for a cease-fire can be complicated By emboldening Israel and hardening Hamas’s determined struggle in the war that began with the October 7 attack on Israel.

Palestinians look on after an Israeli bombardment of the Nusirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Jehad Alshrafi)

Blinken said the plan was “the single best way” to secure a ceasefire, free the remaining hostages and improve regional security.

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In his talks with El-Sissi, Blinken also discussed plans for post-conflict governance and reconstruction in Gaza.

“There has to be a plan, it has to include conservation, it has to include management, it has to include reconstruction,” Blinken said.

Netanyahu and his government have resisted calls for any “day after” plan that would prevent Israel from having some form of security presence in the region. Blinken said he would urge Israel to come up with acceptable alternatives.

The militant group Hamas calls for public demonstrations against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, Saturday, June 8, 2024, in Tel Aviv, Israel.  Israel said it had rescued four kidnapped hostages on Saturday.  The Hamas-led offensive on October 7 was the largest such rescue operation since the war in Gaza began.  (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

People protest against the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and call for the release of hostages held by the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, June 8, 2024. (AP Photo/Ohad Zwigenberg)

Andrey Kozlov, 27, was abducted from Israel in an attack led by Hamas.  On October 7, 2023, he arrived by helicopter at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Khan, Israel on Saturday, June 8, 2024.  (AP Photo/Tomer Appelbaum)( AP Photo/Tomer Appelbaum)

Andrey Kozlov, 27, who was kidnapped from Israel in a Hamas-led attack on Oct. 7, 2023, arrives by helicopter at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Khan, Israel, on Saturday, June 8, 2024. Israel claims to have rescued four hostages. Gaza was hijacked in a Hamas-led attack on October 7

“It would be great if Israel came up with its own ideas on this, and I will talk to the government about it,” he said. “But one way or another, we have to have these programs, we have to have them, and we have to be ready to go if we want to use the ceasefire.”

The three-phase plan calls for the release of more hostages and a temporary cessation of hostilities that will last until the second phase of negotiations, aimed at the release of all hostages, the “full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza” and a “permanent cessation of hostilities” is the United States’ mandate at the UN Security Council. According to the draft resolution, the third phase calls for reconstruction in Gaza.

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Security Council Vote on the resolution on MondayIt welcomes the proposal and urges Hamas to accept it.

But Hamas will not be the only obstacle.

Although the deal has been described as an Israeli initiative, thousands of Israelis have demonstrated their support for it. Netanyahu expressed his doubtsIt says that what has been publicly presented is not accurate and that Israel is still determined to destroy Hamas.

Netanyahu’s far-right allies have threatened to topple his government if he implements the plan. Benny GantzA famous centrist, He resigned on Sunday from the three-member War Cabinet After the Prime Minister said that he would do so if he did not make one A new plan for post-war Gaza.

After the hostages were freed, Netanyahu insisted he would not step down.

Blinken has met with Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Gantz and Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid on all previous trips to Israel. Blinken will meet with Gantz on Tuesday, officials said.

Although Blinken has visited the area roughly once a month since the war began, the conflict has killed more than 37,120 Palestinians, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, whose numbers do not distinguish between civilians and fighters. Hamas and other militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 250 hostages in the October 7 attack.

The flow of the war has been severely disrupted Food, medicine and other products For the Palestinians in Gaza facing Widespread hunger. The UN estimates that more than 1 million people in the region may suffer The highest level of starvation In mid-July.

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In Jordan, Blinken will participate in an emergency international conference on improving the flow of aid to Gaza.


Follow AP’s coverage of the Gaza war

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