Blinken Pushes for Ceasefire as Israeli Troops Advance in Gaza

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Blinken Pushes for Ceasefire as Israeli Troops Advance in Gaza

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in the Middle East to advocate for a ceasefire amid ongoing Israeli advances in Gaza.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in the Middle East on Monday in an effort to secure a ceasefire in the ongoing Gaza war, a proposal originally put forward by President Joe Biden. Following a meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo, Blinken emphasized that Hamas remains the only party yet to agree to the ceasefire.

“My message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region, is if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes,” Blinken stated before departing for Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. President Sisi highlighted the importance of facilitating humanitarian aid for Gaza’s residents.

Both Israel and Hamas have maintained hardline stances, obstructing previous ceasefire attempts. Despite White House calls for de-escalation, Israel continues its assaults in central and southern Gaza, leading to some of the conflict’s most intense fighting. “We are committed to total victory,” Netanyahu reiterated, rejecting any ceasefire that does not achieve the goal of eliminating Hamas.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri called on the U.S. to pressure Israel to cease its attacks, expressing Hamas’ willingness to consider any initiative that ends the war. The conflict, now in its ninth month, began when Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and took around 250 hostages in southern Israel. Israel’s response has resulted in over 37,000 Palestinian deaths and widespread devastation in Gaza.

Military Advances in Gaza

In Rafah, southern Gaza, Israeli tanks have been advancing towards the densely populated Shaboura neighborhood. Half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents had been sheltering in Rafah before the recent offensive, and one million have since been displaced. Concurrently, Israel has launched a significant assault in the central Gaza Strip, targeting Deir al-Balah, with continued air strikes and shelling reported.

In Nuseirat, north of Deir al-Balah, residents are still recovering from a massive Israeli raid on Saturday that freed four hostages but resulted in substantial casualties. Palestinian officials reported 274 deaths, while Israeli forces acknowledged fewer than 100 fatalities, without specifying combatant status.

Jehad, a resident displaced multiple times by the conflict, expressed frustration and exhaustion: “We are exhausted and helpless, enough is enough.” Video footage from Nuseirat showed the aftermath of the raid, with resident Anas Alyan describing the chaos and the difficulty in rescuing trapped children from the rubble.

Biden’s Ceasefire Proposal

President Biden announced a ceasefire proposal on May 31, which Israel has accepted. U.S. officials disclosed the plan publicly to increase pressure on both sides for a deal. Washington is now seeking U.N. Security Council support for the proposal, which outlines a long truce with the gradual release of Israeli hostages, ultimately aiming to end the war.

As Israeli forces have now stormed most of Gaza, and with domestic political pressure mounting on Netanyahu, there is hope for progress. Tensions have also escalated along the Lebanese border, threatening a broader conflict with Hezbollah.

Benny Gantz, a former military chief and centrist political figure, resigned from Israel’s war cabinet, criticizing the lack of an exit strategy for the war. Netanyahu now faces increased reliance on far-right allies who oppose any deal that allows Hamas to remain in power.