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File image of Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu Alamy Stock Photo

Netanyahu to address US Congress next month, as Qatar says Hamas yet to respond to ceasefire plan

US Republicans say the visit will ‘symbolise the US and Israel’s enduring relationship’.

ISRAEL PRIME MINISTER Benjamin Netanyahu will address lawmakers in the US Congress on 24 July, Republican party leaders have announced.

The visit comes amid mounting pressure for the US ally and Hamas militants to agree to a permanent ceasefire as Israel faces growing diplomatic isolation over the rising death toll in Gaza.

According to Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hamas has not yet given its response on a tabled plan for a ceasefire with Israel in Gaza and an exchange of hostages and prisoners.

However, Egypt said it had received encouraging signals from Hamas over a potential deal with Israel, according to state-linked Al-Qahera News, citing a high-level source.

President Joe Biden last week presented what he called an Israeli three-phase plan that would end the conflict, free all hostages and lead to the reconstruction of the devastated Palestinian territory without Hamas in power.

But Netanyahu’s office stressed that the war sparked by the 7 October attacks would continue until Israel’s “goals are achieved,” including the destruction of Hamas.

The four top party leaders in the US House and Senate from both sides asked Netanyahu last week to speak before a joint meeting of Congress in a letter voicing solidarity with Israel “in your struggle against terror, especially as Hamas continues to hold American and Israeli citizens captive.”

Netanyahu’s visit “symbolises the US and Israel’s enduring relationship and will offer… Netanyahu the opportunity to share the Israeli government’s vision for defending their democracy, combating terror, and establishing just and lasting peace in the region,” House Speaker Mike Johnson and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said in a statement.

The visit comes after Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called in March for Israel to hold new elections in a rare example of strident criticism from a senior American official of the country’s handling of the war in Gaza.

In a statement Thursday evening, Schumer said he invited Netanyahu to speak despite “clear and profound disagreements… because America’s relationship with Israel is ironclad and transcends one person or prime minister.”

The rebuke from Schumer, the highest-ranking elected Jewish American in history, came amid expressions of dismay from progressive Democrats who have condemned Netanyahu over his handling of the military response and vowed to snub the right-wing leader’s speech.

The current conflict was sparked when Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians.

Militants also took 251 hostages, 120 of whom remain in Gaza, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory military offensive has killed at least 36,654 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.

A Gaza hospital said yesterday that at least 37 people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a UN-run school that the Israeli military alleged housed a Hamas compound.

US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators have resumed talks aimed at

US media reported on Monday that Netanyahu had agreed to visit on 13 June, but his office told Israeli media the date had “not been finalised” and would not be on that date because it interferes with a Jewish holiday.

© AFP 2024