Monday, March 4, 2024

Hamas response to proposed truce deal ‘generally positive’: Qatar

Mediator Qatar says Hamas has given a “generally positive” response to a proposed truce agreement with Israel, as the Palestinian group reiterated its demand for an end to the Israeli assault on Gaza.

During a press conference on Tuesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani described Hamas’s reaction to the proposal as “generally positive”, without providing more details.

Blinken said Hamas’s response to the proposal brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States has been shared with Israeli officials.

Blinken is on a lightning tour of the Middle East, and stated that he would discuss the response with Israel’s officials when he visits the country on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in Doha on Tuesday, Blinken said the deal is “essential”.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. But we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” he added.

Hamas announced in a statement that its leaders had reviewed the “comprehensive ceasefire deal … with a positive spirit”, including details on securing relief and shelter, reconstruction, the lifting of a 17-year-old crippling siege, and the completion of the “prisoner exchange” process.

Qatar has been working with the US and Egypt to broker a truce that would involve an extended halt in fighting and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

PM Sheikh Mohammed Al Thani stressed there are a number of challenges that mediators are facing throughout the talks, and that events on the ground in Gaza affect the course of the negotiations.

“We are hoping to see it yielding and yielding very soon,” he added.

Earlier, Blinken met Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The proposed deal was drawn up more than a week ago by US and Israeli spy chiefs at a meeting with Egyptian and Qatari officials.

Hamas has said previously that any deal must bring about a definitive end to the war. Israel has said it will not halt the war permanently until Hamas is destroyed.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office noted Hamas’s response to the deal is being studied by all parties involved in the mediation process.

“Hamas’s reply has been conveyed by the Qatari mediator to the Mossad. Its details are being thoroughly evaluated by the officials involved in the negotiations,” a statement from Israel’s foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, said on Tuesday, per the office of the prime minister.

Sources close to the talks have said the truce would last at least 40 days, during which fighters would free civilians among the remaining hostages they hold. Further phases would follow, to hand over soldiers and the corpses of hostages, in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

The only truce so far, in November, was initially agreed for just four days and extended to last a week. At the time, Hamas released 110 hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Most of the besieged enclave’s 2.3 million population is displaced, facing severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and shelter, with the majority of Gaza now in ruins following nearly four months of Israeli bombardment.

Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after Hamas fighters killed 1,139 people and took around 250 hostages in southern Israel on October 7.

At least 27,500 people have been confirmed killed in Israel’s military campaign, with thousands more feared buried under rubble, according to Palestinian health authorities in Gaza.

More than 66,000 others have been wounded, according to Palestinian authorities.

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