Saturday, April 20, 2024

Israel ‘more or less’ accepts framework agreement for Gaza ceasefire: US

The United States claims Israel has essentially endorsed a framework for a proposed Gaza ceasefire and a captive release deal, and it is now up to the Palestinian group Hamas to agree to it.

“There’s a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it,” a senior US official in the Joe Biden administration told reporters on a conference call on Saturday.

“Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The announcement comes a day before talks to reach a truce agreement are expected to resume in Egypt.

International mediators have been working for weeks to broker a deal to pause the fighting before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins around March 10.

The framework proposal includes a six-week ceasefire, as well as the release by Hamas of captives considered vulnerable, which includes the sick, the wounded, the elderly and women, the US official stated.

A deal would also likely allow aid to reach hundreds of thousands of desperate Palestinians in northern Gaza, which humanitarian officials say are under threat of famine.

Israel has severely restricted the entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies into the Gaza Strip since its war began on October 7.

News of the framework deal “sounds like a significant development from the Americans because they want it to sound like a significant development,” stated Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith, reporting from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Saturday.

“But it clearly looks like an attempt to pile on the pressure on Hamas before the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan begins in just over a week from now,” he added, saying that the proposal is presenting them with a six-week pause in fighting and the promise of more aid deliveries at a desperate time.

Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Basem Naim told Al Jazeera that “the gap is still wide” in reaching an agreement with Israel, as the Palestinian group is calling for a total ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

Naim’s comments followed remarks from President Biden on Monday that a truce was a week away – comments the US president later walked back on.

Al Jazeera’s Hamdah Salhut, reporting from Tel Aviv, said there had not been any Israeli response to the Biden administration official’s comments about the ceasefire framework.

“Over the last week, the only thing we’ve been hearing about are impasses when it comes to this deal, and conflicting reports about where delegations are or are not being sent,” she added.

In recent days, several Israeli media outlets have reported that there will not be an Israeli delegation going to the next round of truce talks.

A senior Egyptian official said mediators Egypt and Qatar are expected to receive a response from Hamas during the Cairo talks reportedly scheduled to start on Sunday. The official also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not publicly authorised to discuss the sensitive talks.

Hamas has not backed away from its position that a temporary truce must be the start of a process towards ending the war altogether, Egyptian sources and a Hamas official told the Reuters news agency.

However, the Egyptian sources also noted assurances had been offered to Hamas that the terms of a permanent ceasefire would be worked out in the second and third phases of the deal.

During a Qatari-mediated weeklong truce in November, 105 captives were released in exchange for 150 Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

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