Blinken pushes for Gaza ceasefire

Ramps up pressure on Hamas amid doubts about deal

Afp June 11, 2024
Palestinians inspect the damages after Israeli forces raid in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, May 30, 2024. PHOTO: REUTERS


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Israel on Monday to promote a Gaza truce and hostage release plan as Israeli bombardment again rocked the Palestinian territory.

After a stop in Egypt to meet President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Blinken arrived in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But Israeli politics and silence from Hamas, at war with Israel for eight months, raised questions as to whether Blinken can succeed.

It is the eighth visit to the region by Washington’s top diplomat since the war began on October 7 with Hamas’s unprecedented attack on Israel.

Netanyahu has been politically buoyed in Israel by a rescue mission that succeeded in freeing four hostages on Saturday but was deadly and destructive for Palestinians.

A day later, though, Netanyahu received his first major political blow of the conflict when Benny Gantz and a second member of his war cabinet quit.

Gantz, a former army chief, criticised Netanyahu especially for failing to outline a post-war governance plan for Gaza, and said the prime minister “is preventing us” from a “real victory”.

The centrist politician also challenged Netanyahu to set a date for elections, a demand shared by a protest movement that has regularly and noisily taken to Israel’s streets against the right-wing government.

Blinken was also expected to meet Gantz during his visit, a senior United States official said. Witnesses in north and central Gaza reported helicopter gunfire and naval shelling hitting Gaza City, and air strikes on Deir al-Balah during the latest fighting.

Street battles raged in the southern areas of Rafah and Khan Yunis, where bodies were seen lying in the streets and Palestinian civilians were fleeing, an AFP correspondent said.

Blinken was expected to promote the plan on his latest wartime crisis tour of the region, with stops also planned in Jordan and Qatar.

During closed-door talks in Cairo also attended by Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, Sisi and Blinken discussed “joint efforts to reach a ceasefire and hostage-prisoner exchange” deal, according to a statement from the Egyptian presidency.

The two leaders had also been expected to discuss plans to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, a main conduit for aid into the territory. 



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