Hamas rejects claims of major truce proposal alterations

Ahram Online , Thursday 13 Jun 2024

Hamas denied that it had put forward new ideas for the US proposal for a Gaza ceasefire, accusing Washington of allowing Israel to evade commitments, after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken claimed the group had suggested numerous changes.

Displaced Palestinians walk past destroyed buildings in al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip June, 2024. AFP


"In everything that we presented, we affirmed our commitment to what was presented on 5 May to the mediators and we did not talk about any new ideas or proposals," senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan said in an interview with Al-Araby TV.

He reiterated the group's stance that it was Israel that rejected proposals, accusing the US administration of going along with its close ally to "evade any commitment" to a blueprint for a permanent Gaza ceasefire.

Hamdan also said Blinken was "part of the problem, not the solution," in the Gaza war, demanding guarantees from mediators to ensure that Israel does not "evade its responsibilities."

This was the main request from the Palestinian resistance group in the response sent to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators, according to a report published by Majalla.

The group has requested guarantors of the ceasefire agreement as well as a written guarantee promising a complete ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.

Blinken said Wednesday that mediators would keep trying to close an elusive ceasefire deal for Gaza after Hamas has proposed changes to the proposal on the table.

Some of the proposed changes are workable and some are not, he added. 

Blinken did not spell out what changes Hamas sought, but he said the mediators — Qatar, Egypt, and the US — will keep trying to “close this deal,” putting the onus on Hamas and accusing it of changing its demands.

However, a senior Hamas leader told Reuters on Thursday that the changes the group has requested are "not significant" and include the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the strip.

The Palestinian resistance group has been vocal since the very beginning of the Israeli war about its position towards completely ending the siege of Gaza through a ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of the occupation army.

Late on Wednesday, Hamas stressed in a statement its "positivity" in the negotiations and urged the US to pressure Israel to accept an agreement leading to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza as well as full withdrawal from the territory, reconstruction, and release of Palestinian prisoners.

The senior leader, speaking to Reuters, said Hamas has also demanded to choose a list of 100 Palestinians with long sentences to be released from Israeli jails.

The Israeli document had excluded 100 prisoners with long sentences and restricted releases to only prisoners with sentences of less than 15 years remaining, the Hamas official said.

"There are no significant amendments that warrant objection," added the Hamas leader.

Although US officials said Israel has accepted the ceasefire proposal outlined by Biden two weeks ago, no Israeli official has confirmed this alleged acceptance.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even publicly disputed aspects of the plan, raising questions about Tel Aviv's commitment to what the US initially presented as an Israeli proposal.

"The proposal that Biden presented is incomplete," Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers during a closed-door meeting of the Israeli parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Netanyahu’s government stated that it would not accept anything other than concluding this war with the destruction of Hamas, although not mentioned by Biden.

The three-stage plan includes a six-week ceasefire, a captive-prisoner exchange, and internationally backed reconstruction of Gaza.

It is roughly the same proposal that was there a few weeks ago when Hamas said yes to the proposal coming from Egypt and Qatar. 

A high-ranking Israeli official claimed that Hamas' response amounts to a "rejection" of the proposal, while the group maintained its position that it has simply offered "comments." 

"President Biden spoke about accepting the proposal as it is, signing and implementing it," an Israeli official speaking to Ynet claimed, although such a condition was not mentioned by the American leader.

However, another Israeli official told Haaretz newspaper that negotiations for a potential captives and ceasefire deal will continue.

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