Blinken: Hamas Has Proposed Unworkable Changes To Cease-Fire Deal


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Hamas has proposed “numerous changes” to a cease-fire deal on the table and that some are workable, and some are not.

“Israel accepted the proposal as it was and as it is. Hamas didn’t,” said Blinken at a press conference in Doha. “In the days ahead, we are going to continue to push on an urgent basis with our partners, with Qatar, with Egypt, to try to close this deal.”

The Gulf state of Qatar, along with Egypt, has been mediating between Israel and Hamas over the proposed multi-stage cease-fire in Gaza.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told reporters that Qatar, the United States and their partners are “committed to bridge the gap, to find a way to end the war as soon as possible.”

The Qatari prime minister also emphasized the need for a permanent and sustainable solution that would allow a Palestinian state and Israel to exist side by side.

The United States has been studying a response by Hamas to the current American-backed Gaza cease-fire proposal, according to a senior State Department official. Blinken, currently on a diplomatic tour of the region, was said to have been up late into the night with officials assessing the text, which was handed by Hamas to mediators Qatar and Egypt on Tuesday evening.

Blinken dispatched two senior administration officials to receive the document from Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

“The Hamas response reaffirmed the group’s stance any agreement must end the Zionist aggression on our people, get the Israeli forces out, reconstruct Gaza and achieve a serious prisoners swap deal,” a Hamas official said earlier this week.

U.S. President Joe Biden publicized details of the cease-fire proposal, while he and other U.S. officials repeatedly have stressed it is an Israeli proposal. Blinken said Tuesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to the deal.

There remain potential points of contention, including the Hamas demand that Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza, and Israel’s stated commitment to its goal of defeating Hamas and ensuring the militant group cannot launch any future attacks on Israel.

In its initial phase, the three-stage cease-fire proposal calls for a halt in fighting, the release of some hostages from Gaza, the release of some Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, a surge in humanitarian aid for Palestinians, the withdrawal of Israeli troops from populated areas of Gaza, and the return of Palestinian civilians to their homes and neighborhoods.

The second phase envisions a permanent cessation of hostilities in exchange for the release of all other hostages in Gaza and a full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

The final phase includes a multi-year reconstruction plan for the Gaza Strip, much of which has been devastated by eight months of Israeli bombardment. It would also provide for the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza.

Israel-Lebanon border

Israel’s military reported Wednesday carrying out ground and air attacks in the central Gaza Strip and the southern city of Rafah.

Israel also said it struck targets in southern Lebanon after Hezbollah militants launched more than 150 rockets into northern Israel.

The Hezbollah attack was in retaliation for Israel’s killing Tuesday of a senior Hezbollah commander.

The two sides have traded near-daily cross-border fire throughout the war in Gaza, raising fears of a widening regional conflict.

Blinken told reporters on Wednesday one of Washington’s primary goals from Day One has been to prevent the war in Gaza from spreading.

“We don’t want to see that escalation,” said Blinken.

U.N.-backed human rights report

On Wednesday, U.N.-backed human rights experts said in a report that both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed war crimes and other grave violations of international law during the first months of the Israel-Hamas war.

Blinken gave a cautionary word to Israel during Wednesday’s press conference in Doha.

“When it comes to the conduct of the war in response to the attacks of October 7, we look, and continue to look very carefully at international humanitarian law, at laws of armed conflict, human rights. And we have a number of our own processes within the U.S. administration, including within my own department, to assess whether Israel or any other combatant in any other conflict is adhering to those.”

The October 7 Hamas terror attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,200 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to official Israeli figures. Hamas militants took about 250 hostages, 116 of whom remain in the Palestinian territory, including 41 the army says are dead.

Israel’s military response has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, which does not distinguish between fighters and civilians in its figures.

State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to the report. 


The VOA is the Voice of America

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