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War on Gaza: Hamas delivers official response to ceasefire proposal

Palestinian group says counter-offer prioritises the 'necessity to completely stop' the Israeli 'aggression' on Gaza
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad Al Nakhalaj discuss the ceasefire proposal before they respond to Qatari and Egyptian mediators in Doha, Qatar, 11 June 2024 (Hamas Media Office/Handout via Reuters)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad leader Ziyad Al Nakhalaj discuss the ceasefire proposal before they respond to Qatari and Egyptian mediators in Doha, Qatar, 11 June 2024 (Hamas Media Office/Handout via Reuters)

Hamas gave its official response on Tuesday to Israeli demands in the latest US-mediated ceasefire proposal, capping days of waiting for an official reply from the Palestinian group.

In a joint statement with the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group, Hamas said the response prioritises the "necessity to completely stop the ongoing aggression on Gaza and the withdrawal [of occupation forces] from the entire Gaza Strip". 

Mediators Qatar, Egypt and the US confirmed receiving the Palestinian response. Washington said it was "evaluating" it. 

The content of Hamas' counter-offer were not immediately made public. 

Sources have told AFP and Reuters that Hamas proposed "amendments" to the latest offer it received on 27 May, which was revealed in full exclusively by MEE last week. 

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Hamas officials previously said they sought more guarantees that the deal, which was also outlined by US President Joe Biden last month, would lead to a permanent end to the Israeli war on Gaza. 

A Hamas official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Tuesday the response reaffirmed the stance that a ceasefire "must lead to a permanent end to hostilities, withdrawal of Israeli forces, reconstruction of the Palestinian enclave and 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.

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

An unnamed Israeli official cited by Reuters said Hamas effectively rejected the ceasefire proposal as outlined by Biden. 

The anonymous source said the group "changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters".

Hamas's official response comes a day after the UN Security Council voted in support of a US-backed resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and a prisoner swap.

Months-long talks 

Hamas said it "welcomed" the resolution and expressed "readiness" to implement its principles through indirect talks with Israel. There was no official response from Israel 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas's statement was a "hopeful sign" but he continued to pressure the group, suggesting that the public comments didn't amount to an official response delivered via mediators Qatar and Egypt.

Why Hamas cannot accept Israel's ceasefire proposal
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"Everyone's vote is in, except for one vote, and that's Hamas," Blinken said.

Blinken, who has been on a regional tour that included stops in Cairo, Tel Aviv and Amman, is expected in Doha on Wednesday. 

Indirect talks between Hamas and Israel have been ongoing for months.

Biden cast them into an unprecedented public view on 31 May, when he laid out the details of a three-phase agreement that he characterised as an Israeli proposal for a permanent cessation of hostilities in Gaza.

Despite an immediate positive response to Biden's speech, Hamas soon expressed doubts about the deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Biden's suggestion that the deal would lead to an end of the war, saying that Israel would continue fighting in Gaza until it eliminates Hamas's governing and military capabilities.

In response, Hamas sought written guarantees from mediators that a ceasefire would follow an initial prisoner exchange.

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