April 13, 2024

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Destruction in Gaza as Israel wages war on Hamas: Live updates

3:25 PM ET, March 21, 2024

Blinken says “gaps are closing” on the hostage deal, but difficult challenges remain

From CNN's Michael Conti, Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hansler

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday, March 21.

Evelyn Hochstein/Pool/Reuters

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that “the gaps are narrowing” between Israel and Hamas to reach a temporary ceasefire in exchange for the release of the hostages, but he acknowledged that “there are still real challenges.”

“We worked, as you know, with Egypt, with Qatar, and with Israel to put a strong proposal on the table,” Blinken said during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. “And Hamas responded to that.” .

Blinken said he still believes an agreement is possible, despite the “difficult work to reach.”

“Teams are working on this every day. There are still real challenges. We have closed the gaps but there are still gaps,” he said.

While Israel prepares for a possible eventuality An operation in the Rafah area of ​​GazaBlinken said that the United States believes that “Hamas can be dealt with effectively without a major ground operation in Rafah.” He said a ground operation “would be a mistake,” and officials would determine alternative plans when Israeli delegation He goes to Washington, D.C. next week.

Meanwhile, Shukri said he and Blinken agreed to plan “concrete steps” to increase humanitarian aid in Gaza.

The minister explained that the United States and Egypt agreed on their “total rejection of military operations in Rafah.”

The minister added that Egypt will do “everything possible and everything required to facilitate the cessation of hostilities and an end to military activity.”

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