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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photo: Russian Foreign Ministry/Getty Images

Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday that Israel needs another few days to complete its Gaza operation, but Blinken stressed that the U.S. expects the operation to end soon, an Israeli official tells Axios

What they're saying: In their call, Blinken told Ashkenazi the U.S. was blocking a French initiative at the UN Security Council on Gaza but cannot keep backing Israel publicly and diplomatically, mainly at the UN, for much longer, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The call between Blinken and Ashkenazi was part of the intensifying diplomatic squeeze to move toward a ceasefire in Gaza, which Israel is still fending off for now.

Driving the news: Blinken's call with Ashkenazi followed calls between President Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Benny Gantz.

  • Ashkenazi told Blinken that Israel still has several military goals it hopes to achieve in Gaza, and needs more time.
  • Israeli officials said on all three calls, the issue of domestic political pressure from Congress for a ceasefire was mentioned.
  • Meanwhile France circulated its draft Security Council resolution on Wednesday calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. The U.S. mission to the UN said it opposes the move and will not engage on the text.

The state of play: In recent days, Egyptian intelligence officials and UN envoy Tor Wennesland have held talks with Hamas officials and Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat regarding a possible ceasefire.

  • Ben Shabbat listened to the proposals, but hasn't received any authorization from Netanyahu to enter into negotiations, Israeli officials say. Hamas, on the other hand, did actively engage.
  • Israeli officials said they expect the Israeli policy to change on Thursday and negotiations to begin.
  • Meanwhile, Hamas official Musa Abu Marzouk said Wednesday that he expects the talks to produce a ceasefire within a day or two.

Nevertheless, getting an agreement could take between 24 and 72 hours, Israeli officials say — time Israel wants to use to complete its military plans in Gaza.

Go deeper

Aug 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Kabul crisis complicates Israeli prime minister's White House visit

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (left) greets Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Wednesday at the Pentagon. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett will visit the White House Friday, a day later than originally planned, and he'll find a president in distress.

Why it matters: This is not how the new prime minister imagined his first meeting with President Biden. An hour before he was supposed to walk into the Oval Office, disaster struck in Kabul.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
9 mins ago - Science

A new NASA astronaut corps for the next era in space

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

NASA's next crewed missions to the Moon will need a larger, differently-trained and multi-skilled astronaut corps to deliver on the agency's ambitions.

Why it matters: NASA has plans to fly astronauts to the surface of the Moon in 2025 and ultimately establish a long-term presence there. That goal requires a robust corps with new, specialized training in what it takes to live and work on the Moon — and NASA needs to start planning now.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.