Hamas responds to US-backed ceasefire plan

Aprilia Rine

Hamas responds to US-backed ceasefire plan

The militant group has insisted that all Israeli forces must withdraw from the enclave before a prisoner exchange can happen

Hamas has rejected the framework of an internationally brokered proposal for a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying no prisoner exchange can go forward until its demands – including the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Palestinian enclave – are met.

“We have affirmed our conditions for a ceasefire: complete withdrawal from the sector, the return of displaced persons to the areas they left, especially in the north, and the provision of sufficient aid, relief, and reconstruction,” Hamas senior leader Osama Hamdan said on Tuesday at a press briefing in Beirut.

Hamdan made his comments hours after US President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was up to Hamas to accept the proposed ceasefire, which would pause the war with Israel for at least six weeks, ahead of the Ramadan holidays. US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators are trying to broker the deal to ease a humanitarian crisis in Gaza and enable a swap of Hamas hostages for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

While the Israeli government has reportedly agreed to the framework of a proposed ceasefire, the demands that the Jewish state withdraw all of its troops and start rebuilding Gaza’s leveled neighborhoods appears to be unrealistic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that any ceasefire would only briefly delay “total victory” for his forces, which would require eliminating Hamas, freeing the hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel. Hamas would need to back down from its “crazy demands” to make a temporary ceasefire possible, Netanyahu has insisted.

US President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday that Israeli negotiators had been cooperating with mediators and that a “rational offer” had been made to Hamas. Egyptian state media reported that the negotiations were “facing hurdles” but that ceasefire talks would continue on Wednesday in Cairo.

Biden’s administration has stepped up pressure on the Israeli government in recent days to enable the flow of more aid trucks into Gaza and agree to a ceasefire. US Vice President Kamala Harris declared on Sunday that the situation in the Gaza Strip was a “humanitarian catastrophe,” adding, “our common humanity compels us to act.”

READ MORE: Majority of US voters disapprove of Biden’s Gaza policy – WSJ poll

More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war erupted in October, when Hamas militants launched surprise raids on southern Israeli villages. The militants killed over 1,100 people and took hundreds of hostages back to Gaza. Subsequent Israeli bombardments displaced about 85% of the besieged enclave’s residents, and an estimated 570,000 Gazans are starving, according to the UN.

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