Blinken said Hamas sent ‘non-starters’ on hostage deal, negotiations to continue

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said Hamas’s response included “clear non-starters” to a proposal for a pause in fighting in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages, but he said there’s an opening for ongoing negotiations. 

Blinken was speaking from Tel Aviv, Israel, following a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who earlier rejected Hamas’s response to a proposal put forth last week by the U.S., Israel, Egypt and Qatar.

“What I can tell you about these discussions, while there are some clear non-starters in Hamas’s response, we do think it creates space for agreement to be reached and we will work at that relentlessly until we get there,” Blinken said. 

The secretary is on his fifth trip to the region over efforts to negotiate the release of more than 100 Israeli hostages — including dual American citizens — held by Hamas since kidnapping them in their Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Among Blinken’s stops included Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar, Israel, and the West Bank to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, with discussions focused on shoring up a framework to release hostages and charting a path looking at a resolution for Israel’s war against Hamas. 

Hamas reportedly responded to a proposal for an extended truce — about four and a half months — that would allow the release of all Israeli hostages in phases, an increase of humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip, and the release of a significant number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails. Hamas also called for a full Israeli military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Netanyahu reacted by reportedly calling Hamas’s proposal “delusional.” In a statement on Wednesday, the Israeli leader said “only continued military pressure will bring home the remaining hostages.” He further said “total victory” over Hamas will take months. 

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