Blinken returns to Mideast as Israel politics scramble push for truce


The short-term effect of Gantz leaving the war cabinet could be removing a counter-balance to Netanyahu’s far-right allies, who abhor any compromise and have threatened to quit if Israel accepts the ceasefire plan.

Israel also showed Saturday it has more tools than diplomacy to free hostages – its key priority – with an operation that freed four Israeli captives and which Palestinian officials say killed 274 other people.

Overall Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 37,084 people in Gaza, mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.

Hamas’s Oct 7 attack on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, also mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Under the plan laid out by Biden, Israel would withdraw from Gaza population centres and Hamas would free hostages. The ceasefire would last an initial six weeks, with the ceasefire extended as negotiators seek a permanent end to hostilities.

Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Sunday it was difficult to say how the rescue operation would affect negotiations on a ceasefire.

“If Hamas came and said yes to the deal on the table, there would be an end to the need for these kinds of operations, because the hostages would be coming out peacefully and not through military actions,” Sullivan told ABC News.

In Egypt, Blinken is also expected to speak to Sisi about solutions to open the key crossing into Gaza at Rafah.

The month-long closure has worsened the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, sending prices of scarce goods skyrocketing and worsening fears voiced by the United Nations of famine in the blockaded territory.

Israel seized the crossing from Hamas and has blamed Egypt for the closure.

Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, has hit back and said that drivers feel unsafe going through what is now an Israeli checkpoint.

Blinken was heading to the region from France, where he joined Biden on a state visit that marked the 80th anniversary of Allied troops’ D-Day landing in German-occupied Normandy.

Blinken will also visit two more key Arab partners, Jordan and Qatar, before returning Wednesday to join Biden at the Group of Seven summit in Italy.

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