The war between Israel and Hamas: Hamas responds to the ceasefire plan in Gaza, and the United States evaluates the response

BEIRUT (AP) — Hamas said Tuesday it had submitted to mediators its response to the U.S.-backed proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza, demanding some “amendments” to the agreement. The response appeared to fall short of the explicit acceptance the United States was seeking, but it kept the negotiations going An elusive end to the eight-month war.

The Foreign Ministries of Qatar and Egypt – which played a key role Brokers besides us They confirmed that they had received Hamas’ response and said that the mediators were studying it.

White House National Security spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington: “We have received this response that Hamas provided to Qatar and Egypt, and we are evaluating it now.”

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said the response included “amendments emphasizing a ceasefire, withdrawal, reconstruction, and (prisoner) exchange.” Taha did not go into details.

But while they supported the broad outlines of the deal, Hamas officials expressed concern about whether Israel would implement its terms, especially terms regarding an eventual permanent cessation of fighting and a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in exchange for the release of all hostages held by the militants. .

Even as the United States said Israel had accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave mixed signals, saying Israel would not stop until it achieved its goal of destroying Hamas.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the region this week in an attempt to advance the agreement, his eighth visit since then Hamas’s October 7 attack on southern Israel reignited the Israeli campaign in Gaza. On Tuesday, he continued to pressure Hamas to accept the proposal, considering that The UN Security Council voted in favor He made it clear “as much as possible” that the world supports the plan.

“Everyone has been voted in, except for one vote, which is Hamas,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv after meeting with Israeli officials, hours before Hamas announced its response. He said Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to the proposal when they met late Monday.

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In a joint statement announcing their response to Qatar and Egypt, Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad movement said they were ready to “deal positively to reach an agreement” and that their priority was to achieve a “complete cessation.” To war. Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, told the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen channel that the movement “presented some observations about the proposal to the mediators,” without going into details.

The proposal raised hopes for an end to the eight-month-old conflict in which Israeli bombing and ground attacks in Gaza have killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health officials, and displaced about 80% of the population of 2.3 million from their homes. Israeli restrictions and ongoing fighting have hampered efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the isolated coastal enclave. Fueling widespread hunger.

Israel launched its campaign, vowing to eliminate Hamas, after the group and other militants stormed Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and taking about 250 hostage. More than 100 hostages were released during a week-long ceasefire last year in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

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

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the audience that the amount of aid flowing to the United Nations in Gaza for distribution has decreased by two-thirds since Israel launched an attack on the city of Rafah in the south of the Strip in early May.

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Guterres called for all border crossings to be opened, saying that the “speed and scale of the carnage and killing in Gaza” exceeds anything he has done since assuming the presidency of the United Nations in 2017.

In a separate development, the United Nations Human Rights Office said that Israeli forces and Palestinian militants They may have committed war crimes During the deadly Israeli raid that rescued four hostages over the weekend. At least 274 Palestinians They were killed in the operationAccording to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.

Blinken, who was in Cairo on Monday, is also expected to visit Qatar – where talks are likely to focus on the next steps in the push for an agreement.

On Monday, the UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the proposal, with 14 of its 15 members voting in favor and Russia abstaining. The resolution calls on Israel and Hamas to “fully implement its conditions without delay and without conditions.”

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

The first phase also requires the safe distribution of humanitarian aid “widespread throughout the Gaza Strip,” which Biden said would result in 600 trucks of aid entering Gaza daily.

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

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The third phase will launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and return the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.”

The armed group adopted a similar proposal last month, which Israel rejected.

Biden presented it as an Israeli proposal, but Netanyahu publicly objected to key aspects of it, saying there were parts that Biden had neglected. Mixed signals appear It reflects the political dilemma facing Netanyahu. His allies in the far-right coalition rejected the proposal and threatened to bring down his government if he ended the war without destroying Hamas.

A permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza will likely allow Hamas to retain control of the area and rebuild its military capabilities.

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

It seems that the transition from the first stage to the second stage represents a sticking point. Hamas wants guarantees that Israel will not resume the war, and Israel also wants to guarantee that prolonged negotiations over the second phase will not prolong the ceasefire indefinitely while leaving hostages in captivity.

Blinken said the proposal would achieve an immediate ceasefire and obligate the parties to negotiate a permanent ceasefire. “The ceasefire that will be implemented immediately will remain in place, which is clearly good for everyone. “Then we’ll have to see,” Blinken said.

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Sewell reported from Beirut.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Gaza on https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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