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Blinken says ceasefire in Gaza depends on Hamas

Asia
  People line up for a free meal in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Dec 20, 2023. [AP Photo]

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that it is up to Hamas whether a cease-fire takes place in Gaza in the near future.

Speaking ahead of talks in Washington with a delegation from Turkey, Blinken said the U.S. is continuing to work toward a cease-fire in Gaza, despite reports Thursday that Hamas negotiators had left talks in Cairo.

"In this moment, in this hour, we're also intensely focused on seeing if we can get a cease-fire," Blinken told reporters, "And there, the issue is Hamas. The issue is whether Hamas will decide or not to have a cease fire that would benefit everyone. The ball is in their court. We're working intensely on it."

Blinken also referenced a plan to transport aid to Gaza by sea announced by U.S. President Joe Biden during his State of the Union speech late Thursday.

The plan — a joint project that includes the European Union, Cyprus, Britain, and the United Arab Emirates, among others — would use a temporary pier on Gaza's Mediterranean coast, through which aid would be brought into the enclave.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, speaking Friday in Cyprus, said she expects the corridor will be operational Sunday if not sooner, with an initial pilot operation launched Friday.

Senior United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Gaza Sigrid Kaag told reporters Friday the U.N. welcomes the plan. But she noted that sea corridors and air drops of aid are not a substitute for the delivery of life-saving aid via trucks over land.

She said the maritime plan, nevertheless, will provide very important help.

Meanwhile, medical personnel and eyewitnesses reported Friday a humanitarian aid drop killed five people at the Al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza after the parachute malfunctioned and the parcel hit a residential area.

The head of emergency care at Gaza City's Al Shifa Medical Complex, Muhammad Al-Sheikh, confirmed the deaths.

The United States, Jordan, Egypt and several other nations conducted humanitarian airdrops over Gaza on Friday, and it was unclear who was responsible for the malfunctioning parcel.

A U.S. defense official told CBS News an initial review indicated the U.S. airdrop was not responsible for the fatalities on the ground but said that further investigation was required.

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