Blinken says he believes deal on Gaza hostages ‘possible’

Blinken says he believes deal on Gaza hostages ‘possible’
Blinken says he believes deal on Gaza hostages ‘possible’

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - US' Secretary of State Antony Blinken looks on next to an American flag during a press conference with Albania's Prime Minister in Tirana on February 15, 2024. — AFP pic

TIRANA, Feb 16 — US Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday said that he believed an agreement on a truce in the Israel-Hamas war and the release of hostages were still “possible”.

Mediators are racing to secure a pause to the fighting before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into the Gaza Strip’s far-southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped.

“So we’re very focused on it and I believe it’s possible,” Blinken said at a joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama in Tirana, as negotiations between mediators continue in Cairo.

“We’re now in the process, with our counterparts from Qatar, from Egypt, from Israel, in working on that and working very intensely on that, with the goal of trying to find an agreement.”

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Blinken said there were “some very, very hard issues that have to be resolved.

“But we’re committed to do everything we can to move forward and to see if we can reach an agreement.”

Roughly 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza following the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

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Dozens of the estimated 250 hostages seized during the attack were freed in exchange for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long truce in November. Israel says 29 of those still in Gaza are presumed dead.

At least 28,600 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s assault on the Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas health ministry.

Israel launched more deadly strikes on southern Gaza yesterday, after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted it would push ahead with a “powerful” operation in the overcrowded city of Rafah for “complete victory”.

Blinken yesterday arrived for his first visit to Albania, hailing what he called an “extraordinary partnership” between Washington and Tirana, showing support for his country’s Balkan ally. — AFP

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