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Wide Prospects for Gaza Ceasefire Agreement, Says Hamas

Hamas on Wednesday described its “positive” response to a U.S. ceasefire plan for the eight-month-old war in the Gaza Strip as opening a “wide pathway” to reach an agreement. However, the outlook remains uncertain as neither the Palestinian group nor Israel has publicly committed to a deal.

Hamas submitted its formal response on Tuesday to a proposal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31. Israel interpreted the response as a rejection, while a Hamas official stated that the Palestinian group simply reiterated longstanding demands that the current plan does not meet.

Egypt and Qatar have acknowledged receiving Hamas’ response but did not disclose its contents. Early on Wednesday, Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, stated that the group’s answer was “responsible, serious, and positive,” claiming it “opens up a wide pathway” for an accord.

Another Hamas official, who chose to remain anonymous, told Reuters on Tuesday that the response reaffirmed the movement’s stance that a ceasefire must lead to a permanent end to hostilities in Gaza, withdrawal of Israeli forces, reconstruction of the Palestinian enclave, and the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

“We reiterated our previous stance. I believe there are no big gaps. The ball is now in the Israeli courtyard,” the official said.

The United States has said Israel accepted its proposal, but Israel has not publicly stated this. As Israel has continued assaults in central and southern Gaza that are among the bloodiest of the war, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel would not commit to an end of its campaign in Gaza before Hamas is eliminated.

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An Israeli official said on Tuesday the country had received Hamas’ answer via the mediators and that Hamas “changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters.”

The Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Hamas “has rejected the proposal for a hostage release that was presented by President Biden.”

Earlier a non-Israeli official briefed on the matter, who declined to be identified, said Hamas proposed a new timeline for a permanent ceasefire with Israel and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, including Rafah.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday voted in favor of a U.S. resolution supporting the proposal outlined by Biden. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters on Tuesday that Hamas accepted the Security Council resolution and was ready to negotiate over the details of a ceasefire.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv to meet Israeli officials on Tuesday, described the comments by Hamas as a “hopeful sign” but said they were not conclusive.

More important “is the word coming from Gaza and from the Hamas leadership in Gaza. That’s what counts, and that’s what we don’t have yet,” Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.

CEASEFIRE PLAN

Biden’s proposal envisages a ceasefire and phased release of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war.

This would be a three-phase plan starting with an initial six-week ceasefire with an Israeli military withdrawal from populated areas of Gaza and the release of some hostages while “a permanent end to hostilities” is negotiated through mediators.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Israeli official’s remarks on Tuesday. Earlier U.S. officials said they were reviewing Hamas’ response, as did Qatar and Egypt.

For months, negotiators from the U.S., Egypt and Qatar have been trying to mediate a ceasefire in the enclave of 2.3 million people.

Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said in a report to the Security Council that Israel’s army and security forces as well as Palestinian militants Hamas and Islamic Jihad killed and maimed children in 2023.

Israel is retaliating against Hamas, which rules Gaza, over an Oct. 7 attack by its militants.

More than 1,200 people were killed and over 250 taken hostage by Hamas during the raids, according to Israeli tallies. More than 100 hostages are believed to remain captive in Gaza.

Israel launched an air, ground and sea assault on the Palestinian territory, killing more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities. Gaza is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis due to widespread hunger, scarcity of essentials, infrastructure destruction and continuing displacement of civilians.

The U.S. military resumed bringing humanitarian aid into the enclave via a floating pier on Tuesday after a two-day halt due to bad weather, three U.S. officials said.

The pier was out of operation for 10 days for repairs, and briefly re-opened on Saturday. The U.N. still is not moving aid from the pier to warehouses while it reviews security.

Lillian Hocker
Lillian Hocker
Lillian Hocker is a seasoned technology journalist and analyst, specializing in the intersection of innovation, entrepreneurship, and digital culture. With over a decade of experience, Lillian has contributed insightful articles to leading tech publications. Her work dives deep into emerging technologies, startup ecosystems, and the impact of digital transformation on industries worldwide. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked as a software engineer at a Silicon Valley startup, giving her firsthand experience of the tech industry's rapid evolution.

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