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Blinken visited Israil to push Gaza ceasefire plan

Messenger Online

Published: 19:17, 11 June 2024

Blinken visited Israil to push Gaza ceasefire plan

Photo: Collected

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pushed on with a Middle East crisis tour Tuesday (11 June) to promote a Gaza ceasefire plan as fighting rocked the Palestinian territory and a blast killed four Israeli soldiers.

Visiting Israel, Blinken said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had "reaffirmed his commitment" to the truce proposal and that Hamas's broad welcome for a UN Security Council vote backing it was a "hopeful" sign.

"Everyone has said yes, except for Hamas," to the ceasefire proposal, Blinken said, a day after the Council voted 14-1 to support it. "And if Hamas doesn't say yes, then this is clearly on them."

Blinken, on his eighth Middle East tour since the war broke out on October 7, also met two Israeli opposition leaders and was then headed to Jordan for a Gaza aid conference.

Amid the crisis diplomacy, Israel again bombed Gaza, and the army reported that four Israeli troops were killed in the far-southern city of Rafah on Monday in what Hamas claimed was a booby-trap explosion.

Israeli forces carried out fresh strikes, with hospital sources reporting several Palestinians killed in the centre of the territory.

Israel has faced an international outcry over the spiralling death toll in the war raging for over eight months, which saw 274 people killed during an Israeli special forces raid Saturday to rescue four hostages, according to health officials in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The UN human rights office was "profoundly shocked at the impact on civilians" of the raid in Nuseirat, said spokesman Jeremy Laurence, who added that it was also "deeply distressed" that hostages are still being held in Gaza.

Blinken said Tuesday "there has to be a clear political plan, a clear humanitarian plan to ensure that Hamas does not in any way, shape or form (remain) in control of Gaza and that Israel can move forward toward more enduring security".

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas's October 7 attack resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

The militants also seized 251 hostages. More than 100 were released during a November truce. After special forces rescued four captives on Saturday, 116 hostages remain in Gaza, though the army says 41 of them are dead.

The Israeli army launched a devastating offensive on the Gaza Strip that has left at least 37,124 people dead, the majority of them civilians, according to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.

The latest Israeli deaths in Rafah took to 298 the military's overall losses in the Gaza military campaign since its ground offensive began on October 27.