Blinken urges Middle East leaders to press Hamas for Gaza ceasefire

Blinken urges Middle East leaders to press Hamas for Gaza ceasefire


Blinken urges Middle East leaders to press Hamas for Gaza ceasefire

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 CAIRO/TEL AVIV (Reuters) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday urged Arab leaders to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal outlined ten days ago by US President Joe Biden to end the eight month-long war in Gaza.

Blinken is on his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The trip comes at a critical time as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire deal with Israel and ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon.

Blinken said Hamas was the only outlier in not accepting the proposal for a three-phase deal involving the release of hostages and talks toward an end to fighting, to which he said Israel had agreed.

Hamas said in May it had agreed to a deal for a ceasefire and hostage-for-prisoners swap, but an Israeli official said at the time the deal was not acceptable to Israel because terms had been "softened."

"My message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region, is if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes," Blinken told reporters before departing Egypt, where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters that Blinken's Gaza ceasefire comments were "biased to Israel".

Blinken arrived in Israel on Monday evening, where he was meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He is scheduled to meet Defense Minister Yoav Gallant later on Monday.

The visit comes after US President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Blinken said Egyptian officials had been in communication with Hamas as recently as a few hours ago.

There was a sense of urgency on getting an answer from Hamas on the deal, he said, but declined to further detail his talks.