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Israel-Hamas War and Gaza Cease-Fire Proposal: Latest News

Israel-Hamas War and Gaza Cease-Fire Proposal: Latest News

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A day after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal for Gaza, the world is waiting for Hamas’s leader to respond, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Tuesday.

Putting the onus directly on Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, Mr. Blinken, speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, asked whether the group would act in the best interests of the Palestinian people by accepting the deal. At least, he said, it would pause the fighting and allow more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

Alternately, he said, Hamas could be “looking after one guy,” Mr. Sinwar, “who may be for now safe, I don’t know, 10 stories underground somewhere in Gaza, while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in the crossfire of his own making.”

Though President Biden has described the U.S.-backed cease-fire plan as one originally proposed by Israel last month, Israeli officials have not publicly endorsed it, and they have not said whether they would abide by the deal if Hamas accepts it.

After meeting on Monday with senior Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “I think there’s a strong consensus, again, behind moving forward the proposal,” Mr. Blinken said.

“But it really is down to one person at this point,” he added, referring to Mr. Sinwar.

During a visit to Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken greets families and supporters of Israelis held hostage in Gaza.Credit…Pool photo by Jack Guez

Mr. Blinken said he received an explicit assurance from Mr. Netanyahu that he continued to support the proposal, despite doubts the Israeli leader sowed last week when he called the idea of a negotiated permanent cease-fire — which Hamas has called essential — a “nonstarter.”

Asked how that difference might be reconciled, Mr. Blinken emphasized the value of achieving an immediate cease-fire in the first phase of the proposed three-phase agreement. “The commitment in agreeing to the proposal is to seek that enduring cease-fire,” he said. “But that has to be negotiated.”

Along with the immediate cease-fire, the first phase of the agreement calls for the release of all hostages being held in Gaza in exchange for a larger number of Palestinians being held in Israeli prisons, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory.

The second phase calls for a permanent cease-fire with the agreement of both parties. The third phase would consist of a multiyear reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages.

Mr. Blinken spoke on the patio of a seaside hotel in Tel Aviv as several relatives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, with whom he had just met briefly, looking on. Several held signs with photos of their loved ones reading, “Bring Them Home.”

On the second day of his eighth visit to the Middle East since the Hamas-led attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Mr. Blinken called Monday’s unanimous Security Council vote a sign that Hamas will be isolated if it does not agree to the proposed deal, which President Biden endorsed in a speech on May 31.

“The United Nations Security Council, in effect speaking for the entire international community, made it as clear as it possibly could be that this is what the world is looking for,” Mr. Blinken said.

In a statement on Monday, Hamas said it “welcomes what is included in the Security Council resolution that affirmed the permanent cease-fire in Gaza, the complete withdrawal, the prisoners’ exchange, the reconstruction, the return of the displaced to their areas of residence, the rejection of any demographic change or reduction in the area of the Gaza Strip, and the delivery of needed aid to our people in the strip.”

Mr. Blinken called that statement “a hopeful sign.” But he added that what matters “is the word of the Hamas leadership in Gaza” — namely Mr. Sinwar.

Mr. Blinken spoke to reporters before leaving for Amman, Jordan, where he was scheduled to attend a conference on humanitarian aid for Gaza. He also met on Tuesday morning with Israel’s opposition leader, Yair Lapid, and with Benny Gantz, who pulled his centrist party out of Israel’s emergency wartime government on Sunday in protest of Mr. Netanyahu’s handling of the war.

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