Gaza war: US ‘hopeful’ Hamas will accept Israel’s new ceasefire offer

Gaza war

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has expressed optimism that Hamas will accept Israel’s latest proposal for a ceasefire and hostage release deal in Gaza. Blinken described the offer as “extraordinarily generous” as a Hamas delegation discussed it with mediators in Cairo.

After weeks of stalemate, a senior Hamas official was quoted as saying the group had “no major issues” with the proposal. The deal reportedly includes new language on restoring calm that is meant to satisfy Hamas’s demand for a permanent ceasefire.

The Israeli government is facing growing pressure from its global allies and the families of the hostages to reach an agreement. Israel launched a military campaign in response to a cross-border attack by Hamas on southern Israel on October 7th, which resulted in around 1,200 deaths and 253 people taken hostage.

More than 34,480 people have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry. A previous deal in November saw Hamas release 105 hostages in exchange for a week-long ceasefire and the release of 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Mediators from Egypt, Qatar, and the US have been working for weeks to broker a new agreement that would secure another pause in the fighting and the release of the 133 hostages that Israel says are still being held, at least 30 of whom are presumed dead.

Earlier this month, Hamas rejected an Israeli proposal for a six-week truce and the release of 40 women, children, elderly, and sick hostages in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas said it was sticking to its demands for a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes.

On Saturday, the Axios news website reported that Israel had put forward a new proposal that included a willingness to allow the return of people to the northern part of Gaza and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the east-west corridor dividing the territory. The proposal also included a willingness to “discuss the establishment of a sustainable ceasefire as part of the implementation of the second phase of the deal, which would take place after the release of hostages,” according to Israeli officials.

Israel’s negotiating team has also been authorized by the war cabinet to discuss the release of fewer than 40 hostages, with one day of ceasefire offered for each hostage freed, the officials said.

When asked about the status of the negotiations on Sunday, a senior Hamas official told AFP news agency that “the atmosphere is positive unless there are new Israeli obstacles” and that “there are no major issues in the observations and inquiries submitted by Hamas regarding the contents [of the proposal].”

gaza war

Blinken and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry both expressed optimism about the proposal, with Shoukry saying it had “taken into account the positions of both sides and has tried to extract moderation.” However, Blinken noted that the US had “not yet seen a plan that gives us confidence that civilians can be effectively protected” in the event of a major Israeli operation in the southern town of Rafah.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas warned that an assault on Rafah would cause “the biggest disaster in the history of the Palestinian people.” Israeli officials have indicated that plans are being finalized for a major operation in Rafah, where the military says Hamas’s remaining battalions and leaders are based.

The negotiations have become a high-stakes diplomatic issue, with Israel’s allies and the hostages’ families pressuring the government to reach a deal, while some Israeli officials have warned that canceling a planned operation in Rafah would undermine the government’s legitimacy.

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