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US pushes Hamas to agree with Israel on Gaza cease-fire terms


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks during a joint press conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, at the State Department in Washington, April 9, 2024.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, right, speaks during a joint press conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, at the State Department in Washington, April 9, 2024.

The United States pressed Hamas on Tuesday to accept a cease-fire deal with Israel that would halt fighting in Gaza for six weeks. It would also release some of the 100 or so hostages held by the U.S.-designated terror group in exchange for Israel freeing hundreds of Palestinians it has jailed.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Washington that it was a “very serious” proposal presented to Hamas in Cairo last weekend and “should be accepted.”

“The ball is in Hamas’ court,” Blinken said. “The world is watching to see what it does.”

He added that the fact that Hamas has not yet agreed to the terms “says what it thinks of the people of Gaza, which is not much.”

US, Israel ‘ready’ for cease-fire but say Hamas must free hostages
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Hamas said Tuesday that the proposal didn’t meet its demands, but it would consider it.

Meanwhile, British Foreign Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that his country will not block arms sales by British companies to Israel.

"The latest assessment leaves our position on export licenses unchanged," Cameron said in Washington.

"Let me be clear, though,” he added, “we continue to have grave concerns around the humanitarian access issue in Gaza."

Israel declared war on Hamas after its shock October 7 terror attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the capture of about 250 hostages. Israel’s subsequent counteroffensive in Gaza has killed more than 33,000 people, about two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, while the Israeli military says several thousand Hamas fighters are among those killed.

As of mid-February, 112 hostages had been freed, most during a weeklong cease-fire in November, while 36 more are believed to have died or been killed in Gaza during the six months of fighting.

Blinken said the war could have ended months ago if Hamas “had put down its guns, stopped hiding behind civilians and surrendered.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday an undisclosed date has been set for Israel’s military to invade Rafah on the Gaza-Egyptian border, a region where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering to try to remain safe.

The U.S. opposes the planned Rafah attack, with White House officials saying the Israelis have not shared an attack date with Washington. Secretary Blinken said U.S. officials plan to meet with Israeli officials again next week to share their thoughts and offer alternative plans for attacking the last remaining Hamas battalions in the region.

The top U.S. diplomat said President Joe Biden has “been very clear about our concerns, our deep concerns about Israel's ability to move civilians out of out of harm's way to care for them” in the event of an Israeli attack.

Blinken said he does not see anything imminent happening in Rafah and that he does not believe anything will occur before U.S. and Israeli officials meet.

Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told a Senate hearing that a deadly famine in Gaza would likely accelerate violence and ensure a long-term conflict. The U.S. has continually pressed Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza to feed famished Palestinians.

"If Israel wants to create lasting effects, then it must address the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. ... And not in a marginal way," he told U.S. lawmakers Tuesday.

Some international critics have contended that Israel is committing genocide with indiscriminate attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, taking little care for their safety as it hunts down Hamas militants.

But Austin dismissed the contention, saying, "We don't have evidence of that."

Turkey trade with Israel
Turkey said Tuesday it is imposing trade restrictions on Israel affecting a range of products until Israel declares a cease-fire in Gaza.

The restrictions include trade in 54 categories, including iron, steel, cement, aviation fuel and fertilizer.

The move comes a day after Israel blocked a Turkish request to carry out an airdrop of aid to Gaza. Multiple countries have conducted aid drops to try to counter what humanitarian organizations have said is a lack of adequate access to bring in badly needed aid through land crossings.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz pledged to respond with parallel measures against Turkey. He posted on X that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is sacrificing “the economic interest of Turkey’s people for the sake of his support of Hamas murderers in Gaza.”

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters, The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.

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