Hamas Responds to U.S. Ceasefire Proposal Amid Ongoing Gaza Conflict

Hamas Responds to U.S. Ceasefire Proposal Amid Ongoing Gaza Conflict

On Tuesday, Hamas formally responded to a U.S. ceasefire proposal for the ongoing eight-month conflict in the Gaza Strip. While Israel interpreted the response as a rejection, a Hamas official, who remained anonymous, stated that the group had simply reiterated its longstanding demands.

These demands include a permanent cessation of hostilities in Gaza, Israeli troop withdrawal, reconstruction of the area, and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Egypt and Qatar confirmed receiving Hamas' response to the proposal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 but did not disclose the specifics. The Hamas official emphasized that their stance had not changed significantly and suggested that the next move was up to Israel.

The U.S. has indicated that Israel accepted its proposal, but Israel has not publicly confirmed this. Israel continues its operations in Gaza, insisting that it will not cease its campaign until Hamas is eradicated.

An anonymous Israeli official stated that Hamas altered critical aspects of the proposal, effectively rejecting the plan for hostage release presented by President Biden. Another source familiar with the situation reported that Hamas suggested a new timeline for a permanent ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, including Rafah.

The U.N. Security Council supported the U.S. resolution backing Biden's proposal. Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, before the response was delivered to mediators, expressed acceptance of the Security Council resolution and readiness to negotiate ceasefire details. Additionally, Hamas and its ally, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, showed willingness to reach an agreement to end the conflict.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tel Aviv, called this a "hopeful sign" but noted it was not definitive. He emphasized the importance of hearing directly from Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Biden's proposal involves a phased plan for a ceasefire and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, aiming for a permanent end to the war.

The initial phase includes a six-week ceasefire, Israeli military withdrawal from populated areas in Gaza, and the release of some hostages, followed by negotiations for a lasting resolution.

The White House, reviewing Hamas' response alongside Qatar and Egypt, did not immediately comment on the Israeli official’s remarks. Negotiations for a ceasefire have been ongoing for months, involving the U.S., Egypt, and Qatar.

The conflict, sparked by an October 7 attack by Hamas militants that killed over 1,200 people and took more than 250 hostages, has led to Israel's retaliatory assault on Gaza, resulting in over 37,000 Palestinian deaths according to Gaza health authorities.

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