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The United States is leading an effort to secure a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas to prevent an assault on Gaza’s southern city of Rafah. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Saudi Arabia, is working on a proposal for a truce and the release of hostages held by Hamas. Israel is opposed to a full-scale ground incursion of Rafah, creating a window to negotiate a deal. Talks are ongoing, with Hamas being presented with an “extraordinarily generous” offer that could see the release of 33 hostages in exchange for a temporary cease-fire.

On the ground, Hamas is demanding a permanent cease-fire, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the return of displaced people to their homes in Gaza before any agreement can succeed. The fate of the deal hinges on Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, who is believed to be underground in tunnels in Gaza. Israeli officials have previously stated that 133 hostages remain in Gaza, with a faction believed to be dead. However, recent releases of videos showing proof of life of captives have encouraged optimism for a potential deal.

There is pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to secure the release of the hostages, but the government is divided on the proposal. While right-wing members advocate for an offensive in Rafah, more moderate voices prioritize a hostage deal. Netanyahu has indicated his intent to launch a full-scale ground invasion in Rafah to target remaining Hamas militants, underscoring the urgency of reaching a resolution. Secretary Blinken is emphasizing a cease-fire as a means to address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and advance peace efforts.

Blinken’s trip to the Middle East is focused on securing a hostage deal and a temporary cease-fire, with a broader goal of a normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, an independent Palestinian state, and the rebuilding of Gaza. The U.S. is working with regional partners like Egypt and Qatar, who are also advocating for a truce in Gaza. Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly urged avoiding an attack on Rafah, highlighting the catastrophic consequences it could have. Israeli military action in Rafah continues, with airstrikes causing casualties among civilians, including women and children.

As negotiations continue, the international community is closely watching the developments in Gaza. The urgency to secure a cease-fire and release hostages is paramount in ensuring the safety and well-being of those affected by the conflict. The diplomatic efforts led by the United States, with support from regional allies, aim to bring stability to the region and prevent further escalation of violence. The situation remains fluid, with the possibility of a breakthrough in the coming days as parties work towards a peaceful resolution.

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