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Blinken meets Israeli President to push for Gaza ceasefire (Lead)

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Tel Aviv, May 1 (IANS/DPA) US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Israeli President Isaac Herzog in Tel Aviv on Wednesday at the start of a fresh round of talks aimed at bringing about a ceasefire in the Gaza war.

The release of the hostages held by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement was currently a top priority, Herzog said at the meeting, according to his office.”We’re determined to get a ceasefire that brings the hostages home, and to get it now. And the only reason that that wouldn’t be achieved is because of Hamas,” Blinken said.Blinken said there was a proposal on the table: “And as we’ve said, no delays, no excuses. The time is now.””At the same time, even as we’re working with relentless determination to get the ceasefire that brings the hostages home, we also have to be focused on people in Gaza who are suffering in this crossfire of Hamas’s making, and so focused on getting them the assistance they need – the food, medicine, the water, the shelter – is also very much on our minds and in the work that we’re doing.”Blinken said he planned to discuss these issues with Herzog.A meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planned for later in Jerusalem.Blinken had previously spoken of a “very, very generous” proposal from Israel for a deal with Hamas.As part of mediation efforts in Cairo, a response from Hamas is now being awaited.Israel has announced a rapid start to the controversial offensive in Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip if no agreement is reached.Blinken had previously also visited Saudi Arabia and Jordon as part of his multi-day trip.–IANS/DPAsd/svn

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