UN endorses US-backed cease-fire plan as Blinken holds talks on Gaza

UN endorses US-backed cease-fire plan as Blinken holds talks on Gaza

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed senior Israeli officials to adopt and implement a postwar plan for Gaza, on Monday. He also called for heightened international pressure on Hamas to accept a cease-fire proposal recently approved by the UN Security Council.

During his latest urgent mission to the Middle East, his eighth, since the Israel-Hamas war began in October, Blinken met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. This followed discussions in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi to advocate for the proposal, which now faces uncertainty after Israel’s hostage rescue operation resulted in numerous Palestinian casualties and stirred turmoil within Netanyahu’s government.

Blinken told Netanyahu that “the United States and other world leaders will stand behind the comprehensive proposal outlined by President Biden that would lead to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, the release of all hostages, and a significant and sustained increase in humanitarian assistance for distribution throughout Gaza,” according to the State Department.

Following the UN Security Council's adoption of the US-sponsored resolution endorsing the cease-fire proposal, Hamas expressed a willingness to engage with mediators in indirect negotiations with Israel to implement it. This statement is among the strongest from Hamas to date but underscored their ongoing effort to end the Israeli occupation and establish a fully sovereign Palestinian state.

Despite this, Hamas has not formally responded to the proposal received 10 days ago. Blinken reiterated his call for Hamas to accept the proposal, highlighting its broad international support and noting that Israel has accepted it, though Netanyahu remains sceptical.

“I know that there are those who are pessimistic about the prospects,” Blinken told reporters before leaving Cairo for Israel on a trip that will also include stops in Jordan and Qatar. “That’s understandable. Hamas continues to show extraordinary cynicism in its actions, a disinterest not only in the well-being and security of Israelis but also Palestinians.”

While Biden, Blinken, and other US officials praised the rescue of four Israeli hostages on Saturday, the operation, which resulted in the deaths of 274 Palestinian civilians, may complicate cease-fire efforts by emboldening Israel and hardening Hamas' resolve to continue fighting in the war that began with its October 7 attack on Israel.