Middle East, Hamas modifies the truce proposal. For Israel it is “a refusal”


By John

Hamas has sent its formal response to the hostage release and ceasefire proposal presented by Israel 12 days ago, declaring that they had made “changes” to the offer; one step that Israel equated it to a refusal.

The proposed ceasefire plan – which was approved by the United Nations Security Council on Monday evening with a resolution proposed by the US – calls for a six-week ceasefire that would eventually become permanent, accompanied by the gradual release of hostages and the release of Palestinian prisoners. Qatar and Egypt – which, together with the United States, mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas – confirmed that the Palestinian group had submitted its response. In its statement last night, Hamas called for a “total end” to the fighting in Gaza. “The response prioritizes the interests of our Palestinian people and underlines the need to completely stop the ongoing aggression against Gaza,” Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group said in a joint statement.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said it was “helpful” that Hamas had submitted a response and that American officials were “evaluating” the group's requests.

Hamas's response is unsurprising: Arab officials had already told the Times of Israel last week that the Palestinian group would avoid outright rejecting the Israeli proposal, against the backdrop of growing global support for a deal, and would instead seek to review the offer. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office did not officially respond, but a statement from an anonymous Israeli official was released, according to which Hamas' proposal has “changed all the main and most significant parameters” and is therefore equivalent to a refusal. Netanyahu acknowledged authorizing the deal plan, but never expressed unequivocal support. Far-right members of his War Cabinet have threatened to leave the coalition and cause its collapse if the deal goes ahead, seeing it as a surrender to Hamas.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha explained that their counterproposal includes “amendments confirming the ceasefire, withdrawal, reconstruction and exchange” of hostages. The changes revise the timing of the permanent truce and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza – including Rafah and Philadelphia Route, the narrow corridor along the Egypt-Gaza border – according to an official from one of the mediating countries who requested anonymity.