Blinken urges Middle East leaders to press Hamas for Gaza ceasefire
AIRO/TEL AVIV: (Reuters) U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Arab leaders to pressure Hamas to accept a ceasefire proposal outlined ten days ago by U.S. President Joe Biden to end the eight-month-long war in Gaza.

Blinken is on his eighth visit to the region since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, triggering the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The trip comes as Washington seeks to increase pressure on Hamas to agree to a ceasefire deal with Israel and ensure the war does not expand into Lebanon.

"If you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes." U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday shuttled between Cairo and Jerusalem pushing a proposed truce in Gaza.

Blinken met first with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Afterward, he told reporters that the greatest obstacle in reaching a ceasefire was that Hamas had yet to accept the terms of a deal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden last month.

Also read: US seeks UN backing for proposed Gaza ceasefire deal

"So, the only party that has not accepted, the only party that has not said yes, is Hamas. That’s who everyone is waiting on. That’s who the Palestinians in Gaza are waiting on. It’s who the Israelis are waiting on. It’s who the hostage and the hostages' families are waiting on."

Blinken then flew to Israel, where he met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a statement, Netanyahu said his country remained "committed to total victory."

A Hamas official told Reuters on Monday that Blinken's comments were biased toward Israel.

The war has now entered its ninth month, since Hamas-led fighters killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage in a rampage through southern Israel.

In response, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians and reduced most of the enclave to wasteland.

Also read: Gaza ceasefire uncertain, Israel vows to continue Rafah operation

Israel’s military on Monday released video it said showed scenes from a weekend operation that resulted in the rescue of four hostages kidnapped on Oct. 7 and recovered from the Nuseirat refugee camp in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian officials said the operation, which involved airstrikes and ground troops, killed 274 people, making it one of the deadliest assaults of the war.

Israeli forces said they were aware of under 100 Palestinians killed and did not know how many were combatants.

Hamas’s military wing released this video on Sunday purporting to show its fighters battling Israeli tanks in the streets of Rafah, in southern Gaza. Israeli forces began an operation in the city last month despite White House pressure to hold off.

Around half of the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million people had been sheltering in Rafah before last month’s assault, and a million have had to flee again.