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29 Apr, 2024 18:16

US tells Hamas to accept ‘extraordinarily generous’ deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged the Palestinian militant group to take Israel’s latest ceasefire offer
US tells Hamas to accept ‘extraordinarily generous’ deal

Israel’s latest ceasefire proposal is “extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous” and should be swiftly accepted by Hamas to spare Gazans from further bloodshed, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has argued.

“The only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas,” the top US diplomat said on Monday at a special meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Riyadh. “They have to decide, and they have to decide quickly. I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision.”

Blinken claimed that the latest ceasefire offer, which was unveiled over the weekend, could lead to a “fundamental change in the dynamic” after more than six months of brutal war between Israel and Hamas. The latest conflict, which was triggered by surprise Hamas attacks against southern Israeli villages on October 7, has left more than 34,000 people dead in Gaza.

The proposal could be the last chance to bring a halt to combat operations before Israel launches a long-threatened ground offensive in Rafah, a city at the southern tip of Gaza, where about 1.4 million civilians have taken refuge. The UN has warned of a humanitarian “catastrophe” if Israel goes through with the Rafah campaign.

Like Blinken, British Foreign Secretary David Cameron described the Israeli ceasefire proposal as “generous.” The offer includes a 40-day initial pause in the fighting and the potential release of thousands of Palestinians who are jailed in Israel, he told the WEF audience.

In exchange, 33 of the approximately 130 Israeli hostages who are still believed to be held captive in Gaza would be freed in the first phase of the ceasefire. The second phase reportedly calls for a “period of sustainable calm,” which would allow for the remaining hostages to be exchanged for more Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas has demanded a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the besieged Palestinian enclave. Israel’s compromise offer of “sustainable calm” could largely meet that condition without calling it a permanent ceasefire.

Representatives of Hamas were scheduled to meet with Egyptian and Qatari mediators on Monday in Cairo.