US says will work with Egypt, Qatar to bridge gaps in Israel-Hamas ceasefire plan

Amr Kandil , Thursday 13 Jun 2024

The United States has expressed determination to work with both Egypt and Qatar to bridge “final gaps” in the proposed ceasefire plan for Gaza after Hamas requested some amendments.

Hamas
Palestinian children search through the rubble of their home a day after an attack by the Israeli Special Forces in the Nuseirat camp, in the central Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024. AFP

 

“The United States, Egypt, and Qatar would work to ensure negotiations keep going — all agreements — all agreements — until all the agreements are reached and phase two is able to begin,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

He earlier asserted that Hamas proposed “numerous changes,” some of them unworkable, while Hamas official Osama Hamdan denied that the movement has added any new ideas to the US proposal.

Hamas on Tuesday sent its response regarding the proposal outlined on 31 May by President Joe Biden for a detainee swap and a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas.

The proposed three-phase deal includes “an immediate and full” ceasefire in Gaza in the first six-week phase and “upon agreement of the parties and a permanent end to hostilities” in the second phase.

In its response, Hamas asked for written guarantees from the United States for a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, Reuters cited two Egyptian security sources as saying on Wednesday.

The group has also requested guarantors of the agreement, according to a report published by Majalla.

 

US President Joe Biden details an Israeli proposal for ceasefire in Gaza in the State Dining Room of the White House on May 31, 2024. AFP

 
‘Minor’ changes
 

In remarks to the press on Wednesday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said many of Hamas’ proposed changes are “minor and not unanticipated.”

“President [Biden] anticipated that Hamas would come back, they would suggest some changes, and that the important thing was that all parties sit at the table … until we get to an agreement,” Sullivan added.

However, Sullivan claimed that some of Hamas’ changes “differ more substantively” from what was outlined in the UN Security Council resolution adopted this week to support Biden’s proposal.

“The United States will now work with the mediators, specifically Egypt and Qatar, to bridge final gaps consistent with the President’s May 31st speech and with the contents of the UN Security Council resolution,” Sullivan noted.

On Thursday, he reiterated that the goal is “to figure out how we work to bridge the remaining gaps and get to a deal.”

“The goal is to try to bring this to a conclusion as rapidly as possible,” he told reporters.

 

Members of the UN Security Council vote to approve its first resolution endorsing a ceasefire plan aimed at ending the eight-month Israeli war in Gaza, Monday, June 10, 2024. UN

 

However, he said it is hard to predict the timing of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire deal amid the complexity of the situation.

Hamas repeatedly said it looks “positively” to Biden’s proposal.

In a statement early Thursday, Hamas urged Blinken to put "direct pressure" on Israel.

"He continues to talk about Israel's agreement of the latest (ceasefire) proposal, but we have not heard any Israeli official speak out on this," it said.

The United States says Israel accepts the proposal. However, Tel Aviv has not publicly stated this, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that Israel will not end the war until Hamas is destroyed.

 

Hamas’ stance
 

In an official statement on Wednesday, Hamas said while it has expressed its positive position toward Biden’s proposal, Netanyahu’s government has only attacked the plan and affirmed the continuation of the “war of extermination.”

“This is contrary to the claim that the occupation has accepted it (the proposal)," the statement added.

Hamas also slammed Israel’s rejection of any permanent ceasefire in Gaza, in contradiction with the recently adopted UN Security Council resolution.

The movement criticized Blinken's statements in which he blamed Hamas for obstructing a ceasefire deal, saying these remarks “allow the occupation to continue its crime under complete American political and military cover.”

Moreover, the movement called for the Biden administration to exert pressure on the Israeli government “which insists on carrying out its mission of killing and extermination, in flagrant violation of all international laws and treaties.”

Sullivan tried to push back against assertions that Israel is not fully committed to the ceasefire proposal.

“Israel has supplied this proposal. It has been sitting on the table for some time. Israel has not contradicted or walked that back,” Sullivan said Thursday in Italy, where Biden was set to attend the annual Group of Seven leaders’ summit. “To this day they stand behind the proposal.”

“I don’t think that there is a contradiction in the Israeli position,” Sullivan claimed.

 

Palestinian medics treat a child wounded youth in the Israeli bombardment on a residential building in the Bureij refugee camp, at al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al Balah, central Gaza Strip, June 12, 2024. AP

 

After receiving Hamas’ response, Egypt and Qatar affirmed in a joint statement on Tuesday the continuation of their mediation efforts along with the United States until an agreement is reached.

 
Ongoing war
 

Egypt, Qatar, and the US have been mediating between Hamas and Israel over the past months to reach a deal that halts the ongoing brutal Israeli war in Gaza, which broke out on 7 October.

The three countries managed in November to facilitate a ceasefire deal that led to the exchange of about 100 Israeli captives for around 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.

Around 100 captives are still held in Gaza, many of whom were killed during Israeli attacks across Gaza.

According to Israeli reports, Israeli forces over the past months have rescued seven of the captives and recovered the bodies of 19 others, some of whom were killed by the Israeli army.

The unrelenting Israeli bombardment has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, mostly children and women, and injured almost 85,000 others, according to the health ministry.

Over the past eight months, the Gaza war has also damaged most of the territory’s infrastructure, displaced most of the population, and left the strip in an imminent famine.

 

In a statement early Thursday, Hamas urged Blinken to put "direct pressure" on Israel.

"He continues to talk about Israel's agreement of the latest (ceasefire) proposal, but we have not heard any Israeli official speak out on this," it said.

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