BRUSSELS (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says the Biden administration would like to see a new extension of the cease-fire agreement in Israel’s war with Hamas after the current one expires to secure the release of additional hostages held by the militant group and to ramp up humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza.
As he prepared to make his third visit to the Middle East since the war began with Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, Blinken said Wednesday that in addition to discussing short-term logistical and operational planning, the Biden administration believes it is imperative to discuss ideas about the future governance of Gaza if Israel achieves its stated goal of eradicating Hamas.
Israel and Arab nations have resisted such discussions about future governance, with Israeli officials concentrating on the war and Arab leaders insisting the immediate priority must be ending the fighting that has killed thousands of Palestinian civilians.
The extension of the current deal expires later Wednesday.
“Looking at the next couple of days, we’ll be focused on doing what we can to extend the pause so we can continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in,” Blinken told reporters in Brussels, where he was attending a NATO foreign ministers meeting.
“And we’ll discuss with Israel how it can achieve its objective of ensuring that the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7 never happen again, while sustaining and increasing humanitarian assistance and minimizing further suffering of Palestinian civilians.”
He added before leaving Brussels for Israel and the West Bank: “Everyone’s focused on the day of, on what’s happening in Gaza right now, but we also need to be focused at the same time — and we are in conversations with many other countries — on what I call the ‘day after’ and ‘the day after the day after’: I mean, what happens in Gaza once the campaign is over?”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that Israeli forces will eventually restart military operations after the conclusion of the current, temporary cease-fire that has allowed for an exchange of hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.
U.S. President Joe Biden has said he would like to see the pause continue for as long as feasible. Biden and Blinken have also stressed the importance of planning for post-conflict Gaza as well as the need to resume negotiations for the eventual creation of an independent Palestinian state. Netanyahu is opposed to a Palestinian state and has said he is the only Israeli leader who can prevent one from being formed.
“We believe that that is the only path to enduring peace, to enduring security, to the preservation of Israel as a strong secure, democratic Jewish state and Palestinians having their legitimate aspirations for a state and self determination,” Blinken said.
Full AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war.