US 'hopeful' Hamas will accept Israel's truce offer



,- With what he has described as Israel's "extraordinarily generous" offer for a truce in Gaza and the release of hostages, the US secretary of state believes Hamas would agree.

Speaking while a Hamas delegation deliberated the new proposal with mediators from Qatar and Egypt was Antony Blinken.

A forty-day ceasefire is part of the plan, which calls for the release of captives and the possibility of displaced families returning to northern Gaza.

It allegedly apparently has fresh language on calming down intended to appease Hamas's desire for an ongoing ceasefire.

The families of the captives and its worldwide friends are increasing the pressure on the Israeli government to reach an agreement.

In reaction to Hamas' cross-border raid on southern Israel on October 7, which claimed the lives of over 1,200 people and abducted 253 more, Israel began a military operation to destroy the organisation.

Since then, the health ministry of Gaza, operated by Hamas, has recorded over 34,480 deaths.

Under an agreement struck in November, Hamas freed 105 of the hostages in exchange for a week-long ceasefire and the release of around 240 Palestinian inmates from Israeli prisons.

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Weeks have passed while mediators from Egypt, Qatar, and the US have tried to reach a fresh deal that would guarantee another ceasefire in hostilities and the release of the 133 captives that Israel claims are still being held—at least 30 of whom are thought to be dead.

An Israeli proposal for a six-week ceasefire and the release of forty women, children, elderly or sick captives in return for hundreds of Palestinian inmates was turned down by Hamas earlier this month.

According to Hamas, it was upholding its demands for a long-term truce that would result in the Israeli forces completely leaving Gaza and the displaced Palestinians returning to their houses.

The plan, according to Israeli sources quoted on Saturday by the Axios news website, included a readiness for the return of residents to northern Gaza and the removal of Israeli forces from the east-west corridor that splits the region and obstructs movement.

"Discussing the establishment of a sustainable ceasefire as part of the implementation of the second phase of the deal" was another aspect of it, the officials added.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a diplomat and Israeli sources informed the Financial Times and New York Times that Israel was also ready to lower the number of hostages freed during the first phase from 40 to 33.

Although Hamas has only stated openly that it is reviewing the new Israeli proposal, a senior official who went unidentified told AFP news agency on Sunday that "the atmosphere is positive unless there are new Israeli obstacles".

Regarding the contents [of the proposal], "there are no major issues in the observations and inquiries submitted by Hamas," they said.

Press Releases In Tel Aviv, Israel, protestors gather to put pressure on the Israeli government to take more action to free the hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza (27 April 2024).PR Newswire

Allies of Israel and the relatives of the captives are putting increasing pressure on the government to reach an agreement with Hamas

Attending a World Economic Forum (WEF) conference in Riyadh with a number of his European and Arab colleagues, Mr. Blinken also conveyed hope.

"Hamas has before it an extremely, enormously generous proposal from Israel. And Hamas is the only thing separating the Gazan people and a truce at this time," he declared.

"They must choose, and they must choose fast. And with any luck, they will decide wisely."

Equally "hopeful" was Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, whose nation is a mediator in the Israel-Hamas talks together with Qatar.

"The proposal has attempted to extract moderation by considering the positions of both sides," he stated. "I hope that all will rise to the occasion, but there are factors that will have an impact on both sides' decisions."

The negotiations were reportedly the main topic of US President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's phone conversation on Sunday.

They also talked on the need of maintaining the recent boost in aid going to Gaza and the US's ongoing resistance to a full-scale offensive on Rafah, a southern city where over a million displaced Palestinians are taking refuge.

Overnight Israeli airstrikes on three Rafah homes claimed the lives of at least 22 Palestinians, according to local medics and rescuers.

We need a global ceasefire that lasts. At al-Najjar hospital, a man by the name of Abu Taha told AFP, "This is enough," as a throng of relatives lamented over the covered corps.

The Israeli military reports elicited no immediate response.

At a makeshift camp for displaced persons in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinians pass a sewage pool (26 April 2024)EPA

The humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah, where half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents are seeking refuge, is being made worse by rising temperatures.

Children in Rafah, meantime, reported to BBC Arabic's Gaza Today radio show that living in the thousands of tents and temporary shelters there was becoming intolerable due to the rising heat.

Sarah Abu Amr, 11, stated, "It is as if I am standing directly beneath sun's rays; being inside the tent does not shelter me from the severe heat.

"There is nothing at all to keep us hydrated; there is no electricity to power fans or get cold water to ease the terrible effect of the heat."

An UN report states that a five-month-old girl died in a tent last week from the intense heat when temperatures hit 40C (104F).

Senior Israeli generals gave more signals over the weekend that preparations were on for a significant attack in Rafah, the military claims is the base of operations for Hamas's surviving battalions and leaders.

Mr. Blinken, who is scheduled to fly from Saudi Arabia to Jordan and Israel, did point out that the US had "not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected".

Rival of Hamas, Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who is based in the occupied West Bank, declared on Sunday that the US was the only nation able to stop an attack on Rafah, which he warned would result in "the biggest disaster in the history of the Palestinian people".

In the event that a deal for the release of the hostages was reached, Israel's military would "suspend the operation" in Rafah, according to Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz.

But far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich cautioned Mr. Netanyahu against calling off the Rafah attack, stating that "the government headed by you will have no right to exist" should he fail to eliminate Hamas.

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