Hamas has ‘moved goal post’ on hostage talks, says US State Dept

State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and highlighted Israel, underscoring concerns over human rights abuses in Gaza….reports Asian Lite News

Palestinian militant group Hamas has “moved the goal post” and changed its demands in the hostage negotiations with Israel mediated by Egypt and Qatar, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Monday.

Speaking at a daily press briefing, Miller said the United States would continue to push for an agreement that would see hostages taken on Oct. 7 released and a pause in fighting in Gaza.

Separately, Miller said the United States had received a report by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna into the UN aid agency for Palestinians, UNRWA, and is reviewing it.

State Department released its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and highlighted Israel, underscoring concerns over human rights abuses in Gaza.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the human rights concerns stating, “The conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza continues to raise deeply troubling concerns for human rights.”

He added that the US has condemned the October 7 Hamas terrorist attacks while urging Israel to minimize civilian harm in its response.

The section on Israel, which runs 103 pages, documents “credible reports” of more than a dozen types of human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detention, conflict-related sexual violence or punishment, and the punishment of family members for alleged offences by a relative.

The resulting conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip has had a “significant negative impact” on the human rights status in Israel, the report said.

It further cited credible reports of “unlawful killings” by both Hamas and the Israeli government.

Blinken said the United States would continue to make assessments about foreign nations’ records on human rights, and potentially authorize consequences for countries that fall short, regardless of their status as an enemy or partner of the United States.

Blinken in his remarks, explained that the US has “made clear” that Israel needs to follow international law “and take every feasible precaution to protect civilians.”

He emphasized that the department is still “urgently” raising concerns about civilian deaths in Gaza during the war.

The US also “repeatedly” brought up concerns about humanitarian aid access in Gaza, civilian displacement and “unprecedented” journalist deaths, the report noted.

Meanwhile, he Israeli war cabinet held a meeting late Sunday (local time) to discuss efforts for the release of remaining hostages held in Gaza, CNN reported, citing an Israeli official.

The war cabinet has four members – Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant, and National Unity Party chairman Benny Gantz.

In a video statement, released by the Israel government’s press office to mark Passover on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “This night, 133 of our dear brothers and sisters do not sit at the Seder table and are still imprisoned in the hell of Hamas.”

He accused Hamas of rejecting proposals for a hostage deal “outright.” He announced that Israel will soon land “additional and painful blows” and will increase “military and political pressure” on Hamas to release the hostages, according to CNN report.

For weeks, international mediators have facilitated talks on a ceasefire and hostage deal. However, the talks have yielded no apparent breakthroughs.

Earlier this month, Hamas indicated that it was not able to identify and track down 40 Israeli hostages needed for the first phase of a ceasefire deal, CNN reported, citing Israeli official and a source familiar with the discussions.

According to the framework outlined by the negotiators, Hamas should release 40 of the remaining hostages, including all the women as well as sick and elderly men during a first six-week pause in the fighting. In exchange, Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, the report said.

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