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BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday he would work to prolong a pause in the fighting in Gaza on an upcoming visit to Israel.

“Looking at the next couple of days, we’ll be focused on doing what we can to extend the pause so that we continue to get more hostages out and more humanitarian assistance in,” Blinken said after a NATO meeting in Brussels.

“We’d like to see the pause extended because of what it has enabled – first and foremost that is hostages being released, coming home, being reunited with their families.”

The US top diplomat said he believed an extension was also in Israel’s interest.

Israel not letting enough fuel into Gaza: EU

“They’re also intensely focused on bringing their people home, so we’re working on that,” he said.

Blinken will pay his third wartime visit to the Middle East to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah.

A current truce in Gaza is scheduled to expire early Thursday after a six-day pause in a conflict sparked by deadly Hamas attacks that prompted a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory.

On October 7 Hamas poured over the border into Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and kidnapping about 240.

Israel’s subsequent air and ground campaign in Gaza has killed nearly 15,000 people, also mostly civilians, according to Hamas officials, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.

Hamas is willing to extend a truce for four days and release more Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a source close to the group said Wednesday, as mediators sought a lasting halt to the conflict.

With 60 Israeli hostages and 180 Palestinian prisoners already released and more set to walk free on Wednesday under the agreement, conflict mediator Qatar said negotiators were working for a “sustainable” ceasefire.

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