White House urges Hamas to ‘come through’ on Gaza ceasefire

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The White House said Monday that negotiators had presented Hamas with a proposal for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal, but that it was up to the Palestinian militant group to decide.

Talks in Cairo at the weekend involving CIA chief William Burns, Israel, Hamas and Qatar were “serious” but it was too early to say whether they would bear fruit, it said.

“Where we are now is that a proposal has been presented to Hamas, and we are waiting on Hamas’ response,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“Now it’s going to be up to Hamas to come through.”

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Kirby refused to discuss the specifics of the proposed deal, adding “that would be one of the surest ways to torpedo that.”

It was the first formal US confirmation that Central Intelligence Agency director Burns had flown to the Egyptian capital for the talks.

US President Joe Biden sent Burns just days after a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which Biden warned of a change in US policy unless Israel took more steps to protect Gaza civilians.

The shift came after Israeli drone strikes in Gaza killed seven aid workers from a US-based charity.

During the call Biden also put greater pressure on Netanyahu over a ceasefire, urging him to “empower his negotiators to conclude a deal without delay to bring the hostages home,” the White House said.

Israel was now taking greater steps to get aid to Gaza, as Biden also demanded, Kirby said on Monday.

“Yesterday we saw more than 300 trucks enter Gaza, and that’s progress,” he said.

“But obviously we need to see this number increase and we need to see it sustained to really address the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

Israeli officials are also due to visit the White House in coming days to hear US concerns over a proposed Israeli offensive on the southern city of Rafah.

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Kirby said there was no sign that Israel’s announcement at the weekend that it was pulling troops out of Khan Younis, also in the south of Gaza, indicated that a Rafah operation was now on the cards.

“We don’t support a major ground operation in Rafah. We also don’t see any sign that such a major ground operation is imminent, or that these troops are being repositioned for that kind of a ground operation.”

He spoke after Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said troops had left “to prepare for future missions, including ... in Rafah.”

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