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Hamas: Hamas ‘only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire’: Blinken

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas was the only holdup to a Gaza ceasefire as the militants prepared to send a delegation back to Cairo on Saturday for talks.

“We wait to see whether, in effect, they can take yes for an answer on the ceasefire and release of hostages,” Blinken said late Friday.

“The reality in this moment is the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire is Hamas.”

Blinken pointed to difficulties in negotiating with Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist group and does not engage with directly and which Israel has vowed to eliminate.

“The leaders of Hamas that we’re indirectly engaged with — through the Qataris, through the Egyptians — are, of course, living outside of Gaza,” Blinken said.

“The ultimate decision-makers are the folks who are actually in Gaza itself with whom none of us have direct contact.”Blinken was addressing a dinner at the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum in Arizona two days after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top leaders on his latest visit to the Middle East.Ahead of his talks with Blinken, Netanyahu vowed to push ahead with an assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah to root out Hamas regardless of the outcome of negotiations for a temporary ceasefire that would involve the release of hostages.

President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly warned Netanyahu’s government against moving on Rafah, where some 1.4 million Palestinians have taken shelter after fleeing the Israeli assault in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Blinken said that Israel, which counts on the United States for military and diplomatic support, has yet to present “a credible plan to genuinely protect the civilians who are in harm’s way” in Rafah.

“Absent such a plan, we can’t support a major military operation going into Rafah because the damage it would do is beyond what’s acceptable,” Blinken said.

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