Israel-Hamas War: Hamas Response to Gaza Ceasefire Plan, US Assesses Response

BEIRUT (AP) — Hamas said Tuesday it had given mediators its response to a proposed U.S.-backed ceasefire in Gaza, demanding some “amendments” to the deal. The US has been persuasive but the response to keep the talks alive seems not to have been fully accepted. An elusive end to the eight-month war.

The foreign ministries of Qatar and Egypt are important mediators with the United States – confirmed they received Hamas’s response and said mediators were studying it.

“We have received this response from Hamas to Qatar and Egypt, and we are evaluating it now,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said the answer was “amendments to ensure a ceasefire, withdrawal, reconstruction and (prisoner) exchange”. Taha did not elaborate.

But while supporting the deal’s broad outlines, Hamas officials expressed caution about whether Israel would enforce its terms. .

While the US has said Israel has accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given conflicting signals, saying Israel will not stop until it achieves its goal of destroying Hamas.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tried to hammer out the deal in the region this week – his eighth visit since then Hamas’ October 7 attack on southern Israel triggered Israel’s campaign in Gaza. On Tuesday, he continued to press Hamas to accept the plan UN It made “as clear as possible” that the world supported the plan.

“All but one vote are there,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv after meeting Israeli officials hours before Hamas announced its response. He said Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to the plan when they met late Monday.

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In a joint statement announcing the submission of their response to Qatar and Egypt, Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group said they were ready to “deal favorably with reaching an agreement” and that their priority was to bring about a “complete cessation”. to war Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, told Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen television that the group had “submitted some ideas to the mediators.”

According to Palestinian health officials, the proposal raises hopes of an end to an 8-month conflict in Gaza that has killed 37,000 Palestinians and driven 80% of its 2.3 million population from Israeli bombardment and ground attacks. Efforts to bring humanitarian aid to the isolated coastal region have been hampered by Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting. Stimulates widespread appetite.

Israel began its campaign by promising to eliminate Hamas. The group and other militants entered Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking about 250 hostages. More than 100 hostages were freed during a week-long truce last year in exchange for Palestinians jailed by Israel.

Late Tuesday, Blinken attended a Gaza aid conference in Jordan, where he announced more than $400 million in additional aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the wider region, bringing total U.S. aid to more than $674 million over the past eight months.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the meeting that aid for distribution to the United Nations in Gaza had fallen by two-thirds since Israel launched an attack on the region’s southern city of Rafah in early May.

Guterres has called for all border crossings to be opened since taking over the UN presidency in 2017, saying the “speed and scale of carnage and carnage in Gaza” exceeded anything he has had.

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In a separate development, the UN human rights office said Israeli forces and Palestinian militants A war crime may have been committed During a deadly Israeli raid that rescued four hostages over the weekend. At least 274 Palestinians Killed in actionAccording to Gaza’s Ministry of Health.

Blinken, who was in Cairo on Monday, was expected to travel to Qatar – where talks will focus on the next steps in the push for a deal.

On Monday, the UN The Security Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the plan, with 14 of the 15 members voting in favor and Russia abstaining. The resolution calls on Israel and Hamas to “immediately and unconditionally fully implement.”

The proposal announced by President Joe Biden last month calls for an initial six-week ceasefire and a three-phase plan to release some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces will withdraw from populated areas and Palestinian civilians will be allowed to return to their homes. Hamas still holds 120 hostages, a third of whom are believed to be dead.

Phase one calls for the safe distribution of humanitarian aid “throughout the Gaza Strip,” Biden said, which would lead to 600 trucks of aid entering Gaza each day.

At the same time, negotiations will begin on a second phase, which will be in exchange for a “permanent end to hostilities, the release of all other hostages in Gaza, and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.”

The third phase will begin “a major multi-year reconstruction program for Gaza and the return of remains of hostages still dead in Gaza to their families.”

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The militant group adopted a similar proposal last month, which was rejected by Israel.

Biden presented it as an Israeli proposal, but Netanyahu has publicly rejected key aspects of it, saying there were areas Biden left out. Conflicting signals appear Reflects Netanyahu’s political confusion. His far-right allies have rejected the plan and threatened to topple his government if he ends the war without destroying Hamas.

A lasting ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza would allow Hamas to retain control of the region and rebuild its military capabilities.

But Netanyahu is also under increasing pressure to accept a deal to bring back the hostages. Thousands of Israelis, including families of hostages, have demonstrated in support of the US-backed plan.

The transition from the first phase to the second appears to be a sticking point. Hamas wants assurances that Israel will not resume the war, and Israel wants to ensure that protracted negotiations on a second phase do not prolong the ceasefire indefinitely.

Blinken said the proposal would bring about an immediate ceasefire and commit the parties to a lasting negotiation. “The immediate ceasefire will remain in place, which is obviously good for everyone. Then we’ll have to see,” Blinken said.

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Sewell reported from Beirut.

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