US, UK Urge Hamas to Accept ‘Generous’ Israeli Truce Terms

“In this moment, the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Hamas on Monday to quickly accept what he called an “extraordinarily generous” offer from Israeli negotiators for a limited ceasefire in exchange for the release of some hostages being held in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas and Israeli government negotiators, working through intermediaries, have been trading back and forth proposals and counterproposals that could at least temporarily pause the ongoing Israeli military operations throughout the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7.

On Saturday, a representative for the terrorist group, Khalil Al-Hayya acknowledged their side had received the latest offer of terms from Israeli negotiators and was evaluating the proposal. The Hamas representative didn’t provide details about Israeli negotiators’ latest terms.

Speaking at a World Economic Forum event in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on Monday, Mr. Blinken insisted the terms were fair and urged the Hamas side not to prolong their deliberations of the latest Israeli offer.

“Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel, and in this moment, the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is
Hamas,” Mr. Blinken said. “They have to decide, and they have to decide quickly.”

Israeli forces have besieged the Gaza Strip and carried out military operations across the territory since Oct. 7, after Hamas gunmen infiltrated southern Israel in a multi-pronged attack that resulted in more than 1,100 killed. Hamas terrorists took around 250 hostages back to Gaza during the Oct. 7 attacks.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has laid out a wartime goal to eliminate Hamas and win the release of the hostages taken on Oct. 7.

The ongoing negotiations between Israel and Hamas appear to break down over the number of hostages Hamas will release and the duration of the ceasefire this hostage release will provide. The Israeli side has argued for a temporary pause in the fighting, while Hamas has been reluctant to relinquish the hostages without a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron, who was also in attendance at the WEF event in Riyadh, echoed Mr. Blinken’s calls for Hamas to accept the latest Israeli terms. Like his American counterpart, Mr. Cameron said the latest terms are indeed “generous,” saying the deal allows for a 40-day ceasefire and the release of “potentially thousands” of Palestinians.

“I hope Hamas do take this deal, and frankly, all the pressure in the world and all the eyes in the world should be on them today saying ’take that deal,’” Mr. Cameron continued.

Biden Admin Not Backing Rafah Operation

For weeks, Israeli forces have been making preparations for potential military operations in the southern Gazan city of Rafah. The Israeli side views the southern city as one of the remaining strongholds for Hamas fighters, but President Joe Biden’s administration raised concerns about the risks Israeli military operations could pose to the city’s civilian population.

More than a million displaced Gaza residents are crammed into Rafah, having sought refuge there from Israeli military operations further north.

Speaking with Israel’s Channel 12 on Saturday, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the priority remains with winning the release of hostages. Mr. Katz added that the Israeli side would suspend its Rafah operations if a hostage deal could be reached.

Asked on Monday if the Biden administration might endorse Israeli military operations in Rafah if Hamas rejects the latest Israeli hostage proposal, Mr. Blinken said the administration is still urging the Israeli side to avoid going into the city.

“We’ve said clearly and for some time now on Rafah that in the absence of a plan to ensure that civilians will not be harmed, we can’t support a military—a major military operation in Rafah,” Mr. Blinken said. “And we have not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected.”

Long-Term Peace

Both Mr. Blinken and Mr. Cameron expressed hopes for long-term peace in the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict through the eventual recognition of a Palestinian state.

At the WEF event, Mr. Cameron said Hamas would ultimately need to be driven out of Gaza, and “terrorist infrastructure” in the territory would need to be dismantled before a Palestinian state can be fully achieved.

“What this comes down to is unless you can see two things happening at the same time, we’re never going to make progress, and those two things are you got to see a political future for the Palestinian people. But you’ve also crucially got to see security for Israel. And those two things have to go together,” the British foreign minister said.

Mr. Blinken said the Biden administration has been working to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel but that this, too, is contingent on Palestinian statehood.

“In order to move forward with normalization, two things will be required: Calm in Gaza and a credible pathway to a Palestinian State,” Mr. Blinken said.

In return for normalization, Arab states are pushing for Israel to accept a pathway to Palestinian statehood over land Israel captured during the 1967 “Six-Day War”—something the Netanyahu government has repeatedly rejected.

Speaking at the WEF conference, Mr. Blinken said Iran and Hamas “have opposed a two-state solution” and said achieving such an outcome would be “almost by definition” “a profound rebuke to everything that they’ve stood for and destroyed for in over many years.”

On April 18, the United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution that would make the Palestinian territories a U.N. member state. Addressing that veto decision, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said the Biden administration still supports a two-state solution but “we also have been very clear consistently that premature actions in New York, even with the best intentions, will not achieve statehood for the Palestinian people.”

Last week, Mr. Al-Hayya told the Associated Press that Hamas is willing to agree to a truce of five years or more with Israel and that the group would lay down its weapons and convert into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along pre-1967 borders.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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