Gaza truce still possible but set back by ICC move: Blinken

AFP , Tuesday 21 May 2024

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Tuesday that a Gaza ceasefire deal was still possible but he charged that an International Criminal Court arrest bid for Israeli leaders was setting back efforts.

Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to journalists at the Department of State in Washington. AP

 

Blinken was opening two days of testimony before Congress that were immediately disrupted by protesters, with two demonstrators shouting that the top US diplomat was a "war criminal" over support to Israel as they were escorted out by police.

Blinken credited Qatar and Egypt with assisting the "extensive effort" to secure a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in return for the release of captives.

But CIA Director Bill Burns, the US point man in the talks, left the region empty-handed some 10 days ago.

"I think we've come very, very close on a couple of occasions," Blinken told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"We remain at it every single day. I think that there's still a possibility," Blinken said.

"But it's challenged by several events and I have to say, yes the extremely wrongheaded decision by the ICC prosecutor yesterday, the shameful equivalence implied between Hamas and the leadership of Israel, I think that only complicates the prospects for getting such an agreement," Blinken said.

Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, on Monday said he had applied for arrest warrants against Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Hamas chiefs.

President Joe Biden called the move "outrageous" for putting together Hamas, which attacked Israel on October 7, and Israel, which has carried out a relentless military campaign in Gaza since then.

The Biden administration has stopped short of threatening sanctions against the ICC, a step taken by the previous president Donald Trump against a previous prosecutor of the court.

Blinken said repeatedly in response to questions only that the Biden administration was looking at an "appropriate response" to the ICC.

Hamas's October 7 Al-Aqsa Flood Operation on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,140 people, and around 250 people taken captive, according to Israeli official figures.

Since then, the Israeli brutal military campaign on the Gaza Strip has killed at least 35,647 people, 70% of them women and children, with another at least 79,852 people wounded, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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