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11 June 2024

US Secretary of State again calls on Hamas to accept Gaza ceasefire plan

11 June 2024

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that the UN Security Council’s vote in favour of a US-backed proposal for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release made it “as clear as it possibly could be” that the world supports the plan, as he again called on Hamas to accept it.

“Everyone’s vote is in, except for one vote, and that’s Hamas,” Mr Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv after meeting with Israeli officials.

He said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had reaffirmed his commitment to the proposal when they met late on Monday.

Hamas welcomed US President Joe Biden’s initial announcement of the plan as well as the UN resolution endorsing it, but has yet to submit its official response to the plan itself.

Mr Blinken said Hamas’ response to the UN vote was a “hopeful sign,” but added that mediators are still awaiting word from the group’s leaders in Gaza.

“That’s what counts. And that’s what we don’t have yet. And that’s why I say we’re waiting to see it. Everyone has said yes, except for Hamas,” he said.

In a separate development, the UN human rights office said Israeli forces and Palestinian militants may have committed war crimes during the deadly Israeli raid that rescued four hostages over the weekend.

At least 274 Palestinians were killed in the operation, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

Mr Blinken’s latest visit to the region — his eighth since Hamas’ October 7 attack ignited the war — is focused on rallying support for the ceasefire proposal, boosting the entry of humanitarian aid and advancing post-war plans for Gaza’s governance.

He met privately with families of the hostages as well as demonstrators outside a hotel calling for a ceasefire deal, and later travelled on to Jordan.

Mr Blinken was also expected to visit Qatar, which along with Egypt has served as a key mediator with Hamas.

Mr Blinken was in Cairo earlier on Monday.

The proposal, announced by President Joe Biden last month, calls for a three-phased plan in which Hamas would release the rest of the hostages in exchange for a lasting ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The group is still holding around 120 hostages, a third of whom are believed to be dead.

Mr Biden presented it as an Israeli proposal, but Mr Netanyahu has publicly disputed key aspects of it, saying Israel won’t end the war without destroying Hamas and returning all the hostages.

Hamas welcomed the UN resolution and supports the broad outline of the agreement but has demanded assurances it will be implemented.

The militant group embraced a similar proposal last month that was rejected by Israel.

“Efforts are continuing to study and clarify some matters to ensure implementation by the Israeli side,” Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said on Tuesday.

Israel “has not given clear approval or commitments to implementation that would lead to ending the aggression,” he said.

On Monday, the UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal, with 14 of the 15 members voting in favour and Russia abstaining.

The resolution calls on Israel and Hamas “to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition”.

The proposal has raised hopes of ending an 8-month war that has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, and driven some 80% of the population of 2.3 million from their homes.

Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hindered efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the isolated coastal enclave, fuelling widespread hunger.

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