Blinken says there is still a lot of work in truce talks between Israel and Hamas News of the Israeli war on Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said there was still “a lot” of work to reach an agreement on an extended truce in Israel’s war on Gaza and a prisoner exchange after the Palestinian Hamas movement responded to a truce proposal with its own plan.

“There is a lot of work to be done, but we are very focused on doing that work, and we hope that we can resume the hostage release that has been halted,” Blinken told reporters on Wednesday at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem with the Israeli president. Isaac Herzog.

The chief American diplomat met earlier with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed Hamas’s counter-proposal to the truce plan drawn up by the heads of American and Israeli intelligence and delivered to the Palestinian movement last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Hamas has developed a detailed plan in three stages that will be implemented over a period of four and a half months. The plan stipulates the release of all hostages in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinians detained by Israel, including senior fighters, and an end to the war.

Later on Wednesday, Netanyahu appeared to reject Hamas’ plan, promising that Israel would continue its military assault on Gaza until “total victory.”

“We are on our way to absolute victory,” the Israeli Prime Minister said, adding that the operation would continue for months, not years. “There is no other solution.”

Blinken later met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah.

An Egyptian official told Agence France-Presse that a “new round of negotiations” will begin Thursday in Cairo with the aim of achieving “calm in the Gaza Strip,” which is now entering its fifth month of war.

A Hamas source familiar with the matter said that the Palestinian movement agreed to the talks with the aim of “a ceasefire, an end to the war, and a prisoner exchange agreement.”

More than 27,580 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel launched its attack on the Strip on October 7 after Hamas carried out an attack on southern Israel.

At least 1,139 people were killed in the Hamas attack, according to Al Jazeera’s tally based on official Israeli figures.

Israel has relentlessly bombed Gaza and launched a ground invasion, reducing much of the territory to rubble and displacing more than 80 percent of the population.

There are still gaps

Blinken has been engaging in intense shuttle diplomacy, touring the Middle East on Tuesday on his fifth visit to the region since the war began, and meeting with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, the two countries mediating hostage negotiations with Hamas.

There are still large gaps between the two sides: Israel previously said it would not withdraw its forces from Gaza or end the war until Hamas is eliminated.

A source close to the negotiations said that Hamas’s counterproposal does not require a guarantee of a permanent ceasefire at first, but that an end to the war must be agreed upon before the last hostages are released, Reuters news agency reported.

Israeli government spokesman Avi Heyman told reporters: “We received an update, we received notification from the Qatari negotiators. We look at them. Mossad is looking with interest at what was presented to us.”

Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that the movement’s goal is “to stop the aggression against our Palestinian people, secure a complete and permanent ceasefire, and provide relief, aid, shelter, and reconstruction.”

During the first phase, which will last 45 days, according to the offer document seen by Reuters, all Israeli hostages, men under the age of 19, the elderly and the sick, will be released in exchange for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons. Israel will withdraw its forces from populated areas in Gaza.

The implementation of the second phase will not begin until the two sides conclude “indirect talks on the requirements necessary to end mutual military operations and return to complete calm.”

The second phase includes the release of the remaining male hostages and complete Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip. The remains of the dead will be exchanged during the third phase.

Officials say ensuring more humanitarian aid reaches Gaza and is distributed to those in need also depends on the fighting ending.

A human nightmare

for now, The war continues unabated in GazaThe Ministry of Health said on Wednesday that at least 123 people had died in the past 24 hours.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that if Israel penetrated the Rafah crossing in the far south of the Gaza Strip, it would “exacerbate what is already a humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.”

UN Special Rapporteur Francesca Albanese told Al Jazeera on Wednesday that it was necessary to reach an agreement to provide aid to Gaza as soon as possible.

Albanese said: “There is a need to deliver aid to the Palestinians, which is extremely important, and this is not happening.”

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