Hamas says it accepts UN-backed Gaza truce plan, US cites ‘hopeful sign’

Wednesday, Jun 12, 2024

TEL AVIV/CAIRO: Hamas accepts a UN resolution backing a plan to end the war with Israel in Gaza and is ready to negotiate details, a senior official of the Palestinian militant group said on Tuesday in what the US Secretary of State called a hopeful sign.

But Qatari and Egyptian mediators have not received formal replies from Hamas or Israel to the UN-backed truce proposal, an official close to the talks told Reuters, and both sides suggested on Tuesday the plan fit their clashing goals, raising doubt whether any genuine headway towards a deal had been made.

Discussions also touching on post-war plans for Gaza will continue over the next couple of days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Tel Aviv after talks with Israeli leaders.

Blinken met Israeli officials on Tuesday in a push to end the eight-month-old Israeli air and ground war against Hamas that has devastated Gaza, a day after President Joe Biden’s proposal for a truce was approved by the UN Security Council.

Ahead of Blinken’s trip, Israel and Hamas both repeated hardline positions that have scuttled previous rounds of truce mediation, while Israel has pressed on with assaults in central and southern Gaza, among the bloodiest of the war.

Biden’s proposal envisages a ceasefire and phased release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war.

On Tuesday, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, who is based outside Gaza, said it accepted the ceasefire resolution and was ready to negotiate over the specifics. This required a formula stipulating the total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a swap of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinians jailed in Israel, he told Reuters.

“The US administration is facing a real test to carry out its commitments in compelling the occupation to immediately end the war in an implementation of the UN Security Council resolution,” Abu Zuhri said.

Blinken said the Hamas statement was “a hopeful sign” but definitive word was still needed from the Hamas leadership inside Israeli-besieged Gaza. “That’s what counts, and that’s what we don’t have yet.”

After Blinken left for Jordan, a senior Israeli government official, who asked not to be identified, said the published proposal would enable Israel to achieve its war goals.

The official repeated Israel’s longstanding stance that Hamas’ military and governing capabilities in Gaza must be annihilated, and all hostages freed with Gaza posing no threat to Israel in the future.

The US is Israel’s closest ally and biggest arms supplier but, along with much of the world, has become sharply critical of the huge civilian death toll in Gaza and the destruction and humanitarian calamity wrought by the Israeli offensive.

In the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinians reacted warily to the Security Council vote, fearing it could prove yet another ceasefire initiative that goes nowhere.