Blinken says to focus on extending Gaza pause on Israel visit

AFP , Wednesday 29 Nov 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he would work to prolong a pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip on an upcoming visit to Israel.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken gives a press conference following the Nato Foreign Ministers meeting on Ukraine at Nato Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023. AP


"Looking at the next couple of days, we'll be focused on doing what we can to extend the pause so that we continue to get more captives out and more humanitarian assistance in," Blinken said after a NATO meeting in Brussels.

"We'd like to see the pause extended because of what it has enabled, first and foremost that is captives being released, coming home, being reunited with their families."

The US top diplomat said he believed an extension was also in Israel's interest.

"They're also intensely focused on bringing their people home, so we're working on that," he said.

Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

A current truce in Gaza is scheduled to expire early Thursday after a six-day pause in the war that began when Hamas poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, and capturing about 240.

Israel's subsequent air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 people, two-thirds of them women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.

Hamas is willing to extend a truce for four days and release more Israeli captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a source close to the militant group said Wednesday, as mediators sought a lasting halt to the war.

With 60 Israeli captives and 180 Palestinian prisoners already released and more set to walk free on Wednesday under the agreement, conflict mediator Qatar said negotiators were working for a "sustainable" ceasefire.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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