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US top diplomat urges Hamas to accept latest ceasefire proposal

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the port of Ashdod in Israel   -  
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Evelyn Hockstein/AP


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Israel had made “very important” compromises in ceasefire efforts and that it was now up to the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, to get the deal done.

He was speaking after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the last leg of his seventh trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas erupted last October

“The hostage deal that's on the table would produce an immediate ceasefire, get the hostages home, alleviate the suffering of Palestinian people in Gaza, and also give us something to build on for the future to get to durable peace and security,” he said.

The US top diplomat said Israel had demonstrated its “desire and willingness to get this agreement and get it done” and that the ball was now in Hamas’ court.

“Hamas has to decide whether it will take this deal and actually advance the situation for the people that it purports to care about in Gaza. There is no time for delay. There's no time for further haggling. The deal is there. They should take it,” Blinken said.

The militant group said it was considering a plan for a 40-day ceasefire and the exchange of scores of hostages for larger numbers of Palestinian prisoners.

Talks in Egypt appear to be stalling with disagreements over Hamas’ demand that a ceasefire include an end to the war and full withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza.

Netanyahu has pledged that Israel will invade the southern city of Rafah, Hamas’ last stronghold, with or without a deal.

Blinken said Washington remains opposed to the operation until Israel finds a way to protect civilians in the city.

An estimated 1.5 million Palestinians are seeking shelter in Rafah, most of them people displaced by the war in other parts of the territory.

The United Nations on Tuesday warned that an Israeli assault on the city was imminent and that a ground operation there would be “nothing short of a tragedy beyond words”.

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