Israel-Hamas war: Blinken’s visit steps up ceasefire talks in Qatar

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US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken’s visit to the Middle East and Israel on Thursday and Friday respectively, has accelerated the indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas in Doha, Qatar. Mossad Chief, David Barnea, who is heading the Israeli delegation is back in Doha for the negotiations. The recent ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas had hit a roadblock after Israel toughened its position.

Israel had informed the mediators, including the US, Qatar and Egypt, that it would not release Palestinian prisoners charged with heinous crimes, including murder, from the jails in Israel in exchange for the Israeli hostages in Gaza under Hamas’s custody. Israel had, according to sources in its Defence Ministry, told the mediators that they were not willing to accept the hostages back in three steps and instead demanded a two-stage release.

Blinken during his whirlwind tour of Cairo, Riyadh and Tel Aviv met with all the concerned parties and put forth the US position, which was for an immediate ceasefire as well as for the release of hostages and supporting the beleaguered Palestinian people in Gaza who are under tough living conditions. The US Secretary of State met the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in Cairo and also the Foreign Ministers of all the Middle Eastern countries.

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A representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation has also met Blinken. Blinken, according to Egyptian media, was informed by El-Sisi that Israel should not be allowed to go for a massive ground operations in Rafah area that would spill over a major migration crisis into Egypt as Rafah borders Egypt and Gaza.

Blinken, according to Israeli media, has told the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, not to go for a ground offensive in Rafah that could increase the casualties in the area. Meanwhile, the US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin has invited the Defence Minister of Israel, Yoav Gallant, for a meeting in Washington on Tuesday.