Blinken tells Hamas it’s time for ‘negotiations’ over ending ceasefire agreement

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Israel to meet with Prime Minister Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other leaders expressed their determination to secure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of an agreement to release more hostages held by Hamas.

“Israel has made very important compromises in the proposals that are on the table,” Blinken said after his meeting with Netanyahu.

“Hamas must decide whether to accept this agreement and actually move forward with the situation of the people it claims to care about in the Gaza Strip. There is no time to delay. There is no time for further negotiations,” the top U.S. official said. the diplomat said.

Blinken also meets with Israeli president Isaac Herzog Defense Minister Yoav Galant attended talks focused on further increasing humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli military announced Wednesday that the Erez border crossing on the northern edge of the Gaza Strip was open, allowing 30 trucks carrying food and medicine from Jordan to pass through.

Gallant said Wednesday night that relief supplies arriving by boat at the Israeli port of Ashdod will be transported directly to the nearby Erez border crossing.

Mr. Gallant and Mr. Blinken visited the Kerem Shalom crossing on the southern tip of the coast and Ashdod, where the U.S. secretary of state spoke.

Blinken said the aid through Erez is a “very important” development in delivering aid to hard-hit areas north of the Strip, where food insecurity is acute. He also said the United States was “probably within a week” of operationalizing its own maritime aid corridor, which includes a floating pier off the coast of Gaza.

Israel has announced that if no agreement is reached with Hamas, it will quickly launch a controversial ground offensive on Rafah, Hamas’ last stronghold on the Egyptian border.

But Netanyahu also made clear that the Rafah offensive was not dependent on a deal.

“With or without an agreement, we will enter Rafah and crush the Hamas battalion there,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at a meeting with Israeli hostages and relatives of fallen soldiers on Tuesday. “The idea of ​​stopping the war before all its objectives have been achieved is out of the question.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been under intense pressure from his far-right coalition partners, and on Wednesday drew attention and anger again with comments from a right-wing cabinet minister that it was not worth bringing back “22 or 33 people.”

Minister Orit Schrock of the Religious Zionist Party said Israel’s war aims should not be sacrificed for the return of a small number of hostages.

She spoke of a “terrible deal” that also put hostages who were not part of it at risk. The purpose of war, she said, cannot be “thrown in the trash to save 22 or 33 people.”

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid retorted on X (formerly Twitter): “A government with 22 or 33 members of an extremist coalition has no right to exist.”

Some 129 people kidnapped on October 7 are believed to remain in Gaza, including some who Israel no longer considers to be alive.

The proposed deal envisions two stages, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing Egyptian officials.

The first phase would involve the release of at least 20 hostages within a three-week ceasefire in exchange for an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners. The ceasefire period could be extended by one day for each additional hostage.

The second phase would include a 10-week ceasefire, allowing Hamas and Israel to agree to a broader release of hostages and a long-term cessation of fighting that could last up to a year.

But Hamas has so far insisted on a complete end to the war, a claim Israel rejects.

The two sides are not negotiating directly, but are using Egypt, Qatar, and the United States as intermediaries.

“We are determined to get a ceasefire that brings the hostages home, and get it done now. And the only reason that doesn’t happen is because of Hamas,” Blinken said earlier in Tel Aviv.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Republican) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a meeting at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem. Haim Zack/GPO/DPA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Republican) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken after a meeting at the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem. Haim Zack/GPO/DPA

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Republican) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv. Mayan Tov/GPO/dpaIsraeli President Isaac Herzog (Republican) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv. Mayan Tov/GPO/dpa

Israeli President Isaac Herzog (Republican) meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Tel Aviv. Mayan Tov/GPO/dpa

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