Blinken Emphasizes Ongoing Efforts in Israel-Hamas Truce Negotiations | Updates on Israel’s Conflict with Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has stated that there is “a lot” of work remaining to reach an agreement on an extended truce in Israel’s war on Gaza and a captive-prisoner exchange. This comes after the Palestinian group Hamas responded to a truce proposal with its own plan.

“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are very much focused on doing that work, and hopefully being able to resume releasing hostages that was interrupted,” Blinken told reporters on Wednesday at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem with Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The top United States diplomat earlier met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed a Hamas counterproposal to a truce plan drawn up by US and Israeli spy chiefs. Hamas laid out a detailed three-phase plan to unfold over four and a half months.

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu appeared to reject the Hamas plan, promising Israel would continue its military assault on Gaza until “absolute victory”. Blinken later met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

An Egyptian official told the news agency AFP that “a new round of negotiations” would start on Thursday in Cairo aimed at achieving “calm in the Gaza Strip.” A Hamas source with knowledge of the matter said the Palestinian group had agreed to the talks, with the goal of “a ceasefire, an end to the war and a prisoner exchange deal.”

Blinken has been conducting intense shuttle diplomacy, crisscrossing the Middle East on Tuesday in his visit to the region and meeting with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar. There remain major gaps between the two sides: Israel has previously said it would not pull its troops out of Gaza or end the war until Hamas was wiped out.

For now, the war rages on unabated in Gaza, where the health ministry said on Wednesday that at least 123 people were killed in the previous 24 hours. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that if Israel presses into Gaza’s far-southern Rafah, it “would exponentially increase what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences”.

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