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Blinken Urges Hamas to Agree Truce to Help Gazans

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VOInews, Jakarta: US top diplomat Antony Blinken urged Hamas on Wednesday to accept a Gaza truce plan despite an Israeli warning that the army will keep fighting the Palestinian militant group after any ceasefire.

 

"Hamas needs to say yes and needs to get this done," said Blinken, who was in Israel on his seventh Middle East crisis tour since the war broke out in October.

 

He later added: "If Hamas actually purports to care about the Palestinian people and wants to see an immediate alleviation of their suffering, it should take this deal."

 

Blinken spoke after visiting the Nir Oz kibbutz, which Hamas attacked on October 7, as well as Israel's Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza and Ashdod port, which Israel says will be used for aid shipments.

 

A Hamas official said the Islamist group would respond "within a very short period" to a plan proposed by mediators to halt the fighting for 40 days and to exchange dozens of hostages for many more Palestinian prisoners.

 

But the group's aim remains an "end to this war", senior Hamas official Suhail al-Hindi told AFP -- a goal at odds with the stated position of Israel's hawkish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

The premier on Tuesday repeated his vow to send Israeli ground forces into Gaza's far-southern city of Rafah, despite major concerns over the fate of some 1.5 million civilians sheltering there.

 

"We will enter Rafah and we will eliminate the Hamas battalions there with or without a deal," Netanyahu told a group representing families of remaining hostages in Gaza.

 

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that an Israeli assault on Rafah would "be an unbearable escalation, killing thousands more civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee".

 

Netanyahu made his threat shortly before the arrival of Blinken and at a time of tensions between the traditional allies as the Gaza war has sparked global anger and weeks of pro-Palestinian demonstrations on US university campuses.

 

Blinken said Wednesday that he again made clear to Israeli leaders Washington's opposition to a major attack on Rafah.

 

"There are other ways -- and in our judgement, better ways -- of dealing with the real ongoing challenge of Hamas that does not require a major military operation" in Rafah, Blinken told reporters.

 

Source: AFP

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