TEL AVIV: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said that a temporary truce between Israel and Palestinian group Hamas had produced results and that the United States hoped that it continued.
Sitting beside Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Blinken said Washington was focused on helping to secure freedom for hostages taken to Gaza during an October 7 attack during which Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 240.
Herzog said about 150 hostages remained in Gaza.
“We have seen over the last week the very positive development of hostages coming home, being reunited with their families. And that should continue today.
It’s also enabled an increase in humanitarian assistance to go to innocent civilians in Gaza who need it desperately,“ Blinken said.
“So this process is producing results. It’s important, and we hope that it can continue,” Blinken said.
Their meeting in Tel Aviv took place on a morning when two Palestinian attackers opened fire at a bus stop during rush hour at the entrance to occupied Jerusalem, killing at least three people and wounding eight others, Israeli police said.
Both Blinken and Herzog condemned the attack.
Earlier on Thursday, Israel and Hamas struck a last-minute agreement to extend their six-day ceasefire in Gaza by one more day to allow negotiators to keep working on deals to swap hostages held in the coastal enclave for Palestinian prisoners.
The truce has brought the first respite to Gaza in seven weeks during which Israel bombed the territory heavily in response to the October 7 attack.
It has also allowed much needed humanitarian aid into Gaza after much of the coastal territory of 2.3 million was reduced to wasteland by Israel’s retaliatory military campaign.
Blinken, making his third trip to the region since October 7, was also expected to visit the occupied West Bank, where he will likely meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a Palestinian official said.
Washington’s top diplomat was also expected to discuss Israel’s looming offensive into southern Gaza.
The US is asking Israel to take greater care to protect Palestinian civilians and limit damage to infrastructure in any offensive in the south, senior US officials said.
“I look forward to detailed conversations with the government of Israel about the way ahead in Gaza,” Blinken said. Israel has sworn to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza.
Health authorities in Gaza say Israel’s bombardment of the tiny, densely populated territory has so far killed more than 15,000 people.