Sat. Jun 15th, 2024
alert-–-us-‘cuts-out-israel-and-deals-directly-with-hamas-to-agree-hostage-release-deal’Alert – US ‘cuts out Israel and deals directly with HAMAS to agree hostage release deal’

The US has allegedly cut out Israel as it negotiates directly with Hamas to agree a hostage release deal.

Officials for the Biden administration discussed making a unilateral deal with the terror group to free five Americans being held hostage in Gaza, two senior US government sources told NBC.

The talks would be conducted through Qatari interlocutors, but only if current ceasefire and hostage negotiations involving Israel fail, it was reported.

The contingency plan should ensure that the five American-Israeli hostages held in Gaza – Edan Alexander, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Omer Neutra and Keith Siegel – would be released. 

The parents of hostage Hersh Goldberg-Polin, said in a statement that they ‘welcome any negotiations that will lead to the return home of our loved ones who have been in captivity for over eight months’.

They added: ‘We pray that every family with hostages will be reunited with their loved ones imminently.’ 

Hamas is also believed to have taken the bodies of three other Americans during their October 7 attack, whose remains the US hopes the secure with a unilateral deal. 

It is not known what the US would offer Hamas in return, but one of the officials told NBC that Israel could be forced into accepting a ceasefire deal should the US exclude it in its negotiation with the terror group. 

The White House has not commented on the news.

This comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he was urging leaders in the Middle East to press Hamas to say yes to a ceasefire proposal to halt fighting in Gaza.

Blinken said Hamas was the only outlier in not accepting the proposal for a three-phase deal involving the release of hostages and talks toward an end to fighting, to which he said Israel had agreed.

‘My message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region, is if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say yes,’ Blinken told reporters before departing Egypt to visit Israel during his trip to the Middle East.

A senior Hamas official told Reuters that Blinken’s Gaza ceasefire comments were ‘biased to Israel’.

Blinken met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo before traveling on to Israel, where he will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

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

The top US diplomat said he would also discuss plans for governance and reconstruction in post-conflict Gaza during his trip, on which he will also meet regional leaders in Jordan and Qatar.

The visit comes after President Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Blinken said Egyptian officials had been in communication with Hamas as recently as a few hours ago.

There was a sense of urgency on getting an answer from Hamas on the deal, he said, but declined to further detail his talks.

Ceasefire talks have intensified since Biden’s speech and CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the plan.

Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long truce in November.

The Hamas attack on October 7 killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies. 

In response, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland. 

Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas since October in a raid in Gaza on Saturday, during which 274 Palestinians were killed, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Blinken did not respond to the question of whether the raid had worsened hopes for a deal.

‘Ultimately, I can’t put myself – none of us can put ourselves – in the minds of Hamas or its leaders,’ Blinken said. ‘So we don’t know what the answer will be.’

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