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Blinken Meets With Netanyahu, Hoping to Stave Off Rafah Assault

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel on Wednesday, his newest cease on a Center East tour as President Biden tries to cease Israel from invading Rafah, the town in southern Gaza the place Palestinians have sought shelter in the course of the conflict.

Mr. Blinken and different prime Biden administration aides are additionally calling for Hamas to comply with a deal to free some hostages taken within the Oct. 7 assaults in trade for a six-week cease-fire and the discharge of some Palestinian prisoners. U.S. officers say they hope a short lived cease-fire would result in a everlasting one.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu mentioned that he plans a significant assault on Rafah “with or with out” a deal.

The cease-fire talks have been stalled for months, and Israeli officers mentioned Monday that they’d agreed to decrease their calls for. They’re now asking Hamas to free 33 civilians — girls, older folks and people who want pressing medical care — fairly than 40. In November, Hamas freed greater than 100 hostages throughout a seven-day cease-fire.

Mr. Blinken mentioned the deal on the desk in his practically three-hour assembly with Mr. Netanyahu, in keeping with a abstract from the State Division. He additionally spoke about efforts to extend humanitarian assist in Gaza and the U.S. authorities’s “clear place” on Rafah, the abstract added.

Mr. Blinken, on the third cease of his journey, additionally met with President Isaac Herzog of Israel earlier on Wednesday morning at a lodge in Tel Aviv as supporters of the hostages had gathered outdoors.

“There’s a proposal on the desk, and as we’ve mentioned, no delays, no excuses,” Mr. Blinken advised the president and reporters earlier than the assembly obtained underway. He later met with just a few members of the family of American hostages held in Gaza after which obtained right into a motorcade to move to Jerusalem, the place he entered the non-public assembly with Mr. Netanyahu.

Mr. Blinken and different U.S. officers say Hamas has a slender window to take the deal since Mr. Netanyahu is urgent for the offensive in Rafah, which the Biden administration has warned may very well be catastrophic for civilians. U.S. officers say they would favor that Israel perform focused operations towards Hamas leaders and fighters in Rafah, the place Israeli officers say Hamas nonetheless has 4 battalions.

U.S. officers have expressed mounting concern over the Palestinian civilian casualties within the conflict. Greater than 34,000 folks have been killed, in keeping with the Gazan well being ministry.

When requested about Mr. Netanyahu’s statements on Rafah, Mr. Blinken mentioned that U.S. efforts have been targeted on a hostage and cease-fire deal.

The difficulty of humanitarian assist for Gaza has additionally been excessive on Mr. Blinken’s agenda within the Center East. After assembly with Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Blinken started an extended drive to southern Israel, the place he deliberate to go to the port of Ashdod, which has been processing assist shipments destined for Gaza.

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