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Blinken presses Hamas to accept cease-fire proposal

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Cairo, April 30: The United States stepped up pressure Monday for a cease-fire deal in Gaza as the secretary of state said a new proposal had been put to Hamas, whose officials were in Cairo talking to Egyptian mediators. Israeli airstrikes killed 26 people in Gaza’s southernmost town of Rafah, according to hospital records.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, ahead of a visit to Israel this week, urged Hamas to accept the latest proposal, calling it “extraordinarily generous” on Israel’s part.
The terms were not made public. But according to an Egyptian official and Israeli media, Israel has softened its position, lowering the number of hostages it demands that Hamas free during the initial six-week phase of the cease-fire in return for the release of hundreds of Palestinians from Israeli prisons.
One question is whether that will be enough to overcome Hamas concerns over the cease-fire’s second phase.
Hamas has demanded assurances that an eventual release of all hostages will bring a complete end to Israel’s nearly seven-month assault in Gaza and a withdrawal of its troops from the devastated territory. Israel has offered only an extended pause, vowing to resume its offensive once it is over. The issue has repeatedly obstructed efforts by US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators during months of talks.
Some Israeli commentators depicted Israel as at a crossroads: Go for a deal with a potential end to the war, bringing benefits that could include normalisation of ties with Saudi Arabia, or push ahead with plans including an attack on Rafah in the hope of crushing Hamas and risk international isolation.
Israel’s closest ally, the United States, and others have repeatedly warned against an offensive on Rafah. (AP)

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