US vice president demands ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Gaza, calling for Hamas to accept terms – as Israel ‘boycotts’ talks

US News

US vice president Kamala Harris has said there must be an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza as she called on the Israeli government to do more to increase the flow of aid, with “no excuses”.

Ms Harris said a six-week ceasefire would get Israeli hostages out and get a significant amount of aid into the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

She said Israel needed to increase the flow of aid to ease what she described as “inhumane” conditions and a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

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The vice president also said there is a “deal on the table” and Hamas “needs to agree to that”.

Although a Hamas delegation is in Egypt for the latest truce talks, Israel has reportedly boycotted them.

Israeli media says it is because Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not got an answer from Hamas on two questions – a list of hostages who are alive and the number of Palestinian prisoners Hamas wants released in exchange for each hostage.

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Ms Harris is on Tuesday due to meet top Israeli politician Benny Gantz, who will also have talks in Washington with US secretary of state Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan, and Republican and Democratic members of Congress.

Although Mr Gantz is in Mr Netanyahu’s war cabinet, he is also a centrist political rival and is thought to have been rebuked by the Israeli prime minister for those planned discussions in America.

An official from Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party said Mr Gantz’s visit was not authorised by the Israeli leader.

The prime minister had a “tough talk” with Mr Gantz about the trip and told him the country has “just one prime minister”, according to the official.

Mr Gantz had told the PM of his intention to travel to the US and to co-ordinate messaging with him, added an official.

US efforts in the region have increasingly been hampered by Mr Netanyahu’s hardline cabinet, where ultra-nationalists dominate. Mr Gantz’s more moderate party at times acts as a counterweight to the PM’s far-right allies.

There are deep disagreements between Mr Netanyahu and US President Joe Biden over how to alleviate Palestinian suffering in Gaza and come up with a post-war vision for the enclave.

On Saturday, the US airdropped aid into Gaza after dozens of Palestinians rushing to grab food from trucks were killed last Thursday.

Speaking on Sunday in Selma, Alabama, Ms Harris said: “People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act.

“The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses.”

A senior US official has said the path to a ceasefire was “straightforward and there’s a deal on the table”, with mediators returning to Egypt hoping to reach an agreement before Ramadan begins in a week.

The unidentified official was speaking to the Reuters news agency ahead of the talks in Cairo, billed as the final hurdle to a six-week ceasefire.

The US said a deal has already been “more or less accepted” by Israel and is waiting for approval by Hamas militants.

But after the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official said the deal was “not yet there”. Hamas also reportedly wants a permanent ceasefire to be part of any deal.

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