Blinken urges Hamas to accept ‘generous’ Israeli ceasefire deal in Riyadh visit

Blinken in Saudi Arabia declares Hamas to be the main obstacle preventing a ceasefire in Gaza

John Bowden
Washington DC
Monday 29 April 2024 16:27 BST
Biden calls Netanyahu’s approach to Gaza war a ‘mistake’

The US’s top diplomat called on Hamas leadership to accept what he described as an “extraordinarily generous” temporary peace deal offered by Israel on Monday as he returned to the region and met with regional power players.

Antony Blinken was at the World Economic Forum in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as he made the statement and declared that "the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas”. More than 30,000 people, including several thousand children, have died as a direct result of the Israeli military offensive launched in Gaza following the deadliest terror attack in Israel’s history on October 7.

“Hamas has before it a proposal that is extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel,” Mr Blinken said on Monday, according to media reports. “They have to decide and they have to decide quickly. I'm hopeful that they will make the right decision."

The secretary’s comments come just two days after Hamas militants released videos of two kidnapped hostages believed to be still held in the Gaza Strip; one was an American citizen, Keith Siegel. The group is believed to be holding around 130 hostages still in Gaza amid the fighting, taken captive during that October 7 attack. Five US nationals are thought to be among them.

His visit to the region and comments also come amid a massive wave of protests against the war — and the US’s involvement via arms transfers to Israel — on college campuses around the United States. Disputes between university administrations and protesters who have set up makeshift encampments on their campuses have led to violent crackdowns by police, including at New York’s Columbia University and Georgia’s Emory University.

President Joe Biden last week signed into law a national security supplemental legislation package which included more $20.68bn in military assistance for Israel as it continues its offensive in Gaza and threatens to begin an assault in Rafah, where millions of refugees have fled to amid the fighting. The Biden administration continues to publicly and privately press the Israeli government against a Rafah offensive, but as of yet there is no sign that the Israeli military is backing down from the planned operation.

On Sunday, the US president and Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, held another phone call. The two men are thought to have a damaged relationship as Mr Biden’s criticism of his counterpart’s handling of the war (not to mention Mr Netanyahu’s closeness to Donald Trump) have strained ties between them.

US officials also continue to publicly condemn the high rate of civilian casualties resulting from the Israeli assault into Gaza. At press briefings, the White House has insisted that Israel has taken steps, at the US president’s behest, to limit those casualties even as the death toll continues to climb to staggering heights.

Mr Biden was at the annual White House Correspondent’s Association dinner over the weekend, which like many of his recent events was targeted by protesters who argue that Israel is committing a genocide with the US complicit in the brutality.

The president’s national security council (NSC) spokesman, John Kirby, pushed back on that assertion in an interview on Friday, and responded “absolutely not” when asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe whether the US had seen evidence of a genocide underway in Gaza.

“The Israeli soldiers are not getting up, getting out of the rack, putting their boots on for the day and saying, 'Hey I'm going to go commit genocide, I'm going to go wantonly murder innocent Palestinians,’” the secretary asserted on MSNBC.

He continued: "Now, that said, there has been — and the president has talked about this — too many civilian casualties. The number needs to be zero, and there are too many people starving, too many people in need."

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