Gaza war: Fate of ceasefire is down to Hamas, says Blinken

image caption, The US is pushing Israel and Hamas to reach a cease-fire agreement

  • author, Tom Bateman
  • stock, US Department of State Correspondent
  • Report from Traveling with Anthony Blinken

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reaffirmed his commitment to the Gaza ceasefire plan and that Hamas will be to blame if it does not move forward.

Referring to Hamas leader Yahya Shinwar, he said he wanted “a guy” hiding “ten floors underground in Gaza” to vote.

Mr Netanyahu has not publicly endorsed what Mr Biden outlined or said whether it fits with the Israeli cease-fire proposal based on Mr Biden’s statement.

The resolution noted that Israel accepted Mr Biden’s offer and called on Hamas to do the same.

Hamas issued a statement on Tuesday welcoming the “inclusion” in the resolution.

But Mr Blinken said Hamas’s response was far from conclusive, adding that “what matters,” the Hamas leadership in Gaza says, “is that we don’t have it.”

He said it was “on them” if the proposal did not proceed.

After months of truce talks stalling behind closed doors, Mr Biden publicly announced last month that Israel had “a road map to a lasting ceasefire and the release of all hostages”, he said.

The proposal included an initial six-week ceasefire.

The second phase would involve the remaining hostages released by Hamas and the wholesale withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as part of a “permanent” ceasefire, but the latter is still subject to negotiations.

Mr Blinken’s visit is part of a serious diplomatic effort by the US to try to push the sides to make progress on the proposal, but concluding a deal faces major obstacles.

Mr Netanyahu acknowledged his war cabinet had approved the plan, but did not unequivocally support it. Far-right members of his cabinet have threatened to leave his coalition and trigger its collapse if the deal goes ahead, considering it a capitulation to Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas is likely to demand clear guarantees that the proposal would lead to a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and a permanent end to the war.

So far, there has been no formal response to the scheme.

The actual Israeli proposal – said to be longer than the summary provided by Mr Biden – has not been made public and it is unclear whether it differs from what the president said in his statement on May 31. It was delivered to Hamas days before Mr Biden’s speech.

The Israeli proposal was agreed upon by Israel’s three-member war cabinet and was not released to the wider government. Some far-right ministers have already made it clear they oppose it.

image caption, Mr Blinken met the families of the Israeli hostages outside his hotel

The Biden administration is trying to use public pressure as part of its campaign.

As Mr Blinken met Israeli officials in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, protesters outside his hotel held American flags and called for a deal. Many held up pictures of the hostages and chanted “SOS, USA” and “We trust you, Blinken, make a deal.”

Vicki Cohen, mother of Israeli soldier Nimrod Cohen, 19, who was kidnapped by Hamas on October 7, holds a banner showing his image.

He told the BBC: “We are here to ask Blinken and the US government to help us, save us from our government. Our prime minister does not want to bring back our loved ones and we need their help to put pressure on our government.”

Mr Blinken later spoke to Ms Cohen and other families of hostages, including Americans, during a brief conversation with them outside the hotel.

“You’re going to be here every day, we’re going to be here every day,” he told them.

He continued a whirlwind diplomatic visit by flying to the Jordanian capital of Amman on a US military plane and then helicoptering to the Dead Sea for a conference of Arab leaders to call for more aid to war-torn Gaza.

Five Jordanian air force helicopters carried Mr Blinken, his officers and the BBC in a traveling press pool on the trip. The fleet flew west, low, to the city of Swame on the shores of the Dead Sea, sitting directly across the water from the occupied West Bank.

In a speech at the conference, Mr Blinken said Israel had taken “some important steps” to ensure aid was delivered to Gaza, but insisted that “more can and must be done”.

He announced $404 million in new aid to the Palestinians and urged other countries to “step up” aid as well.

“The horror must stop,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the conference. “The speed and scale of the carnage and carnage in Gaza has surpassed anything in my years as Secretary-General,” he said.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Martin Griffiths described the Gaza war as a “stain on our humanity” and appealed for $2.5 billion to meet the humanitarian needs of Palestinians in Gaza from April to December.

The war began after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking 251 hostages in Gaza. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says more than 37,000 people have been killed in the Israeli offensive.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *