DOHA, Qatar — Hamas has given a promising reply to a proposed deal for the discharge of hostages in change for an prolonged pause in combating in Gaza and Israel’s launch of Palestinian prisoners, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani mentioned Tuesday.
Talking at a information convention with visiting Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Mohammed mentioned “the reply contains some feedback, however typically it’s constructive.” The Hamas response has been transmitted to Israel, the place Blinken plans to fulfill Wednesday with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and different officers.
Blinken mentioned that the response was being reviewed and that he can be “discussing it with the federal government of Israel tomorrow. There’s nonetheless a variety of work to be completed, however we proceed to consider that an settlement is feasible and, certainly, important.” He and different officers have characterised a hostage settlement as a steppingstone towards broader U.S. goals of a everlasting political settlement within the Center East, together with a Palestinian state.
President Biden, knowledgeable of the Hamas reply within the White Home simply earlier than he made public remarks on a floundering bipartisan Senate invoice for supplemental funding for Ukraine, Israel and different crises, commented solely briefly on the hostage difficulty.
“There’s some motion, there’s been a response from Hamas,” Biden mentioned, “nevertheless it appears to be a bit of excessive, and we’re undecided the place it’s.”
The proposal, negotiated among the many United States, Qatar and Egypt, with participation by Israel, is a broad framework that features an preliminary six-week cessation of combating and launch of all civilian hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. In return, Israel would launch three Palestinian prisoners for each one hostage.
It will quantity to the longest pause in combating because the struggle began 4 months in the past. There are about 100 hostages believed to nonetheless be alive, and Israeli officers say that Hamas is holding not less than 29 lifeless our bodies. The “overwhelming majority” of the lifeless have been killed throughout the Oct. 7 Hamas assault in southern Israel, in keeping with a spokesman for the Israel Protection Forces. Washington’s hope is that an preliminary six-week pause will be prolonged, enabling a longer-term settlement to be put in place.
Israel has agreed in precept to the framework, and Egypt delivered the provisional phrases to Hamas greater than per week in the past, in keeping with folks aware of the negotiations, who spoke on the situation of anonymity concerning the delicate matter.
In a short public assertion on-line, Hamas mentioned it had “handled the proposal in a constructive spirit to make sure a complete and full cease-fire, ending the aggression in opposition to our folks,” making certain humanitarian help for Gaza, an finish to Israel’s “siege” and “finishing a prisoner change.”
Each Blinken and Mohammed emphasised that work stays to flesh out the framework, with Israel and Hamas diametrically against lots of the particulars, together with which Palestinian prisoners can be eligible for launch and whether or not Israeli troops would withdraw from populated areas throughout the pause.
A key sticking level has been Hamas’s need for any hostage deal to end in a everlasting cease-fire — one thing Netanyahu has adamantly refused to contemplate, as an alternative vowing to proceed combating till “whole victory.” The Israeli prime minister has been below stress from households of the hostages, a few of whom have mentioned their launch needs to be Israel’s prime precedence. Different members of the family have agreed with excessive right-wing officers in Netanyahu’s authorities that there needs to be no settlement and referred to as for the combating to proceed with out letup till Hamas is vanquished and its leaders killed.
The Hamas response was acquired by Qatar simply an hour earlier than Blinken, who arrived right here Tuesday night throughout his fifth journey to the Center East because the struggle started, held an preliminary assembly with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani within the luxurious Lusail Palace, the place the 2 briefly mentioned it.
The complete Hamas doc wasn’t supplied to Blinken till his later assembly with the prime minister, in keeping with a senior U.S. official who spoke on the situation of anonymity concerning the diplomatic talks.
U.S. officers had been ready for days for the reply, telling reporters that “the ball is in Hamas’s courtroom” and speculating that there have been inside divisions throughout the militant group or that Israeli army beneficial properties deep into Gaza’s tunnels had Hamas on the run. Different folks aware of the negotiations recommended that communications difficulties, together with an entire electrical energy blackout in Gaza because the struggle started and solely sporadic cellphone and wi-fi communications, have been largely in charge.
Communications have been “a few of the challenges,” Mohammed mentioned, “but in addition the negotiation itself. It took a while with a view to get them to a spot the place we get that response.”
The substance of Hamas’s response remained shrouded in secrecy, nevertheless it appeared constructive sufficient for each the U.S. and Qatari diplomats to publicly elevate hopes for the profitable conclusion of a deal.
Whereas revealing the main points wouldn’t “profit the negotiations,” Mohammed mentioned, “the general prospect of this seems to be for us, not less than as we acquired it, giving extra promising and extra prospects for higher outcomes. We hope … to see it yielding very quickly.”
Now that it has the reply in hand, Blinken mentioned, “we will likely be working as onerous as we probably can to attempt to get an settlement in order that we are able to transfer ahead with not solely a renewed however an expanded settlement on hostages and all the advantages that that will carry nearly every part that we do in diplomacy typically.” An preliminary settlement final November resulted within the launch of 105 hostages throughout a week-long pause within the combating earlier than it fell aside.
The negotiations are happening as Israel has continued assaults in Gaza, concentrating on the southern portion of the enclave the place practically 2 million folks, greater than three-quarters of the inhabitants, have been crammed into an ever-smaller piece of land to keep away from floor assaults by Israeli troops and relentless airstrikes. Greater than 27,000 Gazans have been killed because the struggle started, in keeping with the Gaza Well being Ministry.
Mohammed repeated Qatar’s name for a full-scale cease-fire, a place supported by the vast majority of the world’s nations however rejected by Israel and the U.S. as an invite for Hamas to regroup and rebuild. He additionally criticized the suspension of funding for UNRWA, the United Nations company that coordinates and delivers many of the support to Gaza, by the U.S. and a number of other different nations within the wake of expenses that 12 of its 13,000 staffers contained in the enclave have been concerned within the Oct. 7 assaults on Israel.
“We can’t punish a humanitarian company due to some accusations in opposition to a few of its staff,” he mentioned.
On every of his visits to the area, Blinken has sought to stress Israel to cut back civilian casualties in Gaza and permit extra humanitarian help into the enclave — targets which have resulted in little or no progress over the previous couple of months amid escalating warnings of pending famine from the worldwide support neighborhood.
Requested on the information convention whether or not he was too “good” to be secretary of state and wasn’t pushing Israel onerous sufficient, the soft-spoken Blinken mentioned, “I’ll let others converse to my character. All I can say is that most individuals who assume the place that I’ve the good privilege of assuming now don’t get there by being good on a regular basis.”
DeYoung reported from Washington. Sarah Dadouch in Beirut, Shira Rubin in Tel Aviv and Claire Parker in Cairo contributed to this report.