The U.S. government is making a full-court press to persuade Israel and Hamas to resume negotiations after a nearly seven-day truce ended last week, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Sunday.
“We are still working it really hard, hour by hour, to see if we can get the sides back to the table and see if we can get something moving,” Kirby, who appeared on several Sunday morning talk shows, told NBC News.
Kirby blamed Hamas for the breakdown in talks, saying the militant organization had not lived up to terms of the original agreement that included handing over hostages it took captive during its massive October 7 attack on Israel.
According to Kirby, Hamas has failed to produce a list of women and children who could be freed in addition to the 105 hostages released during the temporary truce.
Fighting in the region resumed on the seventh day of the truce, with the offensive moving from northern Gaza to the south—the area to which Israel had initially warned civilians to evacuate.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned to Israel at the end of last week, where he said he “underscored the imperative of the United States that the massive loss of civilian life and displacement of the scale that we saw in northern Gaza not be repeated in the south.”
Blinken added that he “made clear” to Israel that it must take humanitarian steps to protect civilians and safeguard hospitals, power stations and facilities. The top U.S. diplomat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to take steps to protect civilians.
On Monday, Israel ordered people out of the main southern city in the Gaza Strip as it presses its ground campaign. The Israeli military posted a map on social media with roughly one-fourth of the city of Khan Younis marked off, warning it must be evacuated at once and advising people to head towards Rafah on the Egyptian border.
On Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in California that he has repeatedly made clear to Israel’s leaders that protecting Palestinian civilians in Gaza is “both a moral responsibility and a strategic imperative.”
“You see, in this kind of a fight, the center of gravity is the civilian population. And if you drive them into the arms of the enemy, you replace a tactical victory with a strategic defeat,” Austin said.