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The US and seventeen other countries release a statement demanding Hamas release hostages

The US, along with leaders from 17 countries whose citizens are also being held hostage in Gaza, issued a joint statement on Thursday for the first time in the conflict, calling on Hamas to release the remaining hostages.

A senior government official said the group of countries tried to make a joint statement earlier in the war but failed to reach an agreement due to differing views on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“We call for the immediate release of all hostages held by Hamas and Gaza for more than 200 days. This includes our citizens,” the statement said. “The fate of the hostages and the civilian population in Gaza, who are protected by international law, is of international concern.”

The version of the joint statement released Thursday was in the works for the past two weeks, the official said.

A ceasefire to Gaza only for the release of women, the wounded, the elderly and the sick

The deal on the table that would bring a ceasefire to Gaza simply with the release of women, wounded, elderly and sick hostages is ready to go, a senior government official said, and Hamas has rejected it.

Protesters protest and call for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the current Israeli government outside the Hakirya base in Tel Aviv, April 20, 2024. (credit: Itai Ron/Flash90)

The declaration was signed by leaders from the United States, Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

According to the statement, the leaders said they emphasize the deal on the table that would deliver an immediate and long-term ceasefire, facilitate a wave of necessary humanitarian aid and lead to a credible end to hostilities .

“Gaza residents should be able to return to their homes and lands with advance preparations to ensure shelter and humanitarian services,” the statement said.

The official denied accusations that Israel is preventing the deal.

The U.S. deal was a major topic in President Biden’s last conversation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about a week ago, and Israelis fully agreed with that proposal, the official said.

What came back from Hamas was not a constructive response at all, he added.

Hamas leaders on the outside say all kinds of things, but the decision makers are in Gaza, living deep underground and holding the hostages, the official said.

“The core truth is that there is a deal on the table. This meets almost all the demands that Hamas has made, including on important points, one of which I just spoke to,” the official said. “And what they need to do is release the vulnerable category of hostages to get things moving.”