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Blinken visit to Qatar intensifies ceasefire discussions in Israel-Hamas conflict

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Israel-Hamas war: Blinken's visit steps up ceasefire talks in Qatar

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to the Middle East has reignited indirect ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas in Doha, Qatar. Mossad Chief David Barnea is leading the Israeli delegation in the negotiations that had hit a roadblock previously.

Israel had toughened its stance by refusing to release Palestinian prisoners accused of serious crimes in exchange for Israeli hostages held by Hamas. The Defense Ministry sources disclosed that Israel demanded a two-stage release instead of three steps proposed by the mediators, including the US, Qatar, and Egypt.

During his visit to Cairo, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv, Blinken advocated for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages while also supporting the Palestinian population in Gaza, facing harsh living conditions. He held discussions with various stakeholders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Foreign Ministers of the region.

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Egyptian media reported El-Sisi warning against Israel’s potential ground operations in Rafah, as it could lead to a migration crisis affecting Egypt due to its proximity to Gaza. Blinken also urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to avoid a ground offensive in Rafah that could escalate casualties in the area.

In a separate development, US Defense Secretary Llyod Austin has invited Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for a meeting in Washington scheduled for Tuesday. The ongoing efforts aim to de-escalate the tensions and reach a sustainable ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the region.

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