Hamas accepts UN-backed Gaza truce plan

Published June 12, 2024
Palestinians inspect the damage and debris a day after an operation by the Israeli Special Forces in the Nuseirat camp, in the central Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024. — AFP
Palestinians inspect the damage and debris a day after an operation by the Israeli Special Forces in the Nuseirat camp, in the central Gaza Strip on June 9, 2024. — AFP

Cairo/Tel Aviv: Hamas accepts a UN resolution backing a plan to end the Israeli aggression in Gaza and is ready to negotiate details, a senior official of the 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 said, 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 attack that has devastated Gaza, a day after President Joe Biden’s proposal for a truce was approved by the UN Security Council.

Blinken says discussions on ‘post-war plans’ will continue over the next couple of days

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.

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

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 prisoners held in Gaza for Palestinians jailed in Israel, he said.

“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 goals.

The official repeated Israel’s longstanding stance that Hamas’ military and governing capabilities in Gaza must be annihilated, and all prisoners 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.

“We will believe it only when we see it,” said Shaban Abdel-Raouf, 47, a displaced family of five sheltering in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, a frequent target of Israeli firepower. “When they tell us to pack our belongings and prepare to go back to Gaza City, we will know it is true,” he said via a chat app.

Post-deal planning

Blinken said his talks were also addressing day-after plans for Gaza, including security, governance, and reconstruction of the enclave. “We’ve been doing that in consultation with many partners throughout the region. Those conversations will continue…it’s imperative that we have these plans,” he said.

As part of his eighth trouble-shooting trip to the Middle East since the Gaza conflict ignited, Blinken also sought steps to prevent months of border clashes between Israel and Hezbollah from escalating into a spillover war.

On Monday, Blinken had talks in Cairo with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, a key mediator in the war.

Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2024

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