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Hamas response leaves ceasefire deal languishing

The UN this week endorsed the US-backed ceasefire deal, but Hamas has come back with demands that Israel says amount to a rejection.
TJI Wrap
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Woman looking through a window into a destroyed house

A woman looks at a destroyed house in the Bureij refugee camp in Gaza City, Gaza on June 12 (Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Published: 13 June 2024

Last updated: 13 June 2024

After delaying for almost two weeks, Hamas has finally delivered its response to the latest Israeli-American offer for a hostage deal, torpedoing hopes of an imminent resolution.

The terrorist organisation demanded changes, including a total and permanent cessation of hostilities and differences over the release of hostages and of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Israel immediately announced that Hamas had rejected the proposal. Hamas replied that it hadn’t rejected the offer but only asked for clarifications, and that the problem lay in Israel’s response to its changes.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed frustration at the “numerous changes” Hamas had submitted, some varying from its earlier statements.

“Some of the changes are workable. Some are not,” Blinken said at a press conference in Doha, describing some of those changes as going “beyond positions [Hamas] had previously taken”.

Blinken said he believed that the “gaps” are “bridgeable” but expressed exasperation at both the changes Hamas proposed and the 12 days it took to reply.

“Israel accepted the proposal as it was. Hamas could have answered with a single word – yes,” he said.

“At some point in a negotiation – and this has gone back and forth for a long time – you get to a point where if one side continues to change its demands, including making demands and insisting on changes for things that it had already accepted, you have to question whether they’re proceeding in good faith or not,” Blinken said.

‘We have the Israelis right where we want them’

Hamas appears in no hurry to reach a ceasefire agreement. The Wall Street Journal this week published messages from Hamas head Yahya Sinwar to other Hamas leaders, gloating “We have the Israelis right where we want them” and justifying the deaths of Palestinian civilians as a “necessary sacrifice”.

In a letter sent to Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas political chief, after three of his sons were killed by an Israeli airstrike, Sinwar wrote that their deaths and those of other Gazans would "infuse life into the veins of this nation, prompting it to rise to its glory and honor".

CNN Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson commented that Israel’s military strength is backfiring, increasing sympathy for the Palestinians, particularly in an election year when Biden cannot ignore protesters’ anger. He said the international pro-Palestinian protest movement had emboldened Sinwar.

“This puts wind in Sinwar’s political sails. His negotiating team has gotten tougher: first appearing to be on the verge of compromise, then holding out for a permanent ceasefire and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. He also appears to have brought the reality of a Palestinian state closer too – a political coup following decades of stultifying inertia.

“US regional allies, notably Saudi Arabia, have set an “irreversible” path to a two-state solution as part of their price for buy-in to help Gaza rebuild. And while Netanyahu’s far-right ministers predictably say no to Palestinian statehood, some Western partners are showing they’re fed up with Israeli intransigence,” wrote Robertson.

The Forward’s Rob Eshman commented that the dramatic rescue of four Israeli hostages this week only underscored the reality that a negotiated ceasefire was more likely to return hostages than further military action.

“Consider the statistics. Since Oct. 7, Israel has managed to rescue seven hostages. It has killed three in friendly fire. 120 remain in captivity, at least 30 of whom are believed to have died.”

The UN Security Council this week endorsed Biden’s plan with 14 of the 15 Security Council members voting in favour. Russia abstained.

Inside Israel, differences over the future of the war intensified. War cabinet member and likely alternative prime minister Benny Gantz quit the government over Netanyahu’s failure to articulate a plan for Gaza after the war.

On the far right, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich confronted family members on Monday, saying he wouldn't support the hostage deal, which he described as “collective suicide”.


Without Israel-Hamas deal, Gaza fighting will aimlessly drag on, and the north could plunge into full-scale war (Amos Harel, Haaretz)

Hamas gambled on the suffering of civilians in Gaza. Netanyahu played right into it (Nic Robertson, CNN)

Hamas demands Israeli Gaza pullout within a week of truce, also releasing hostage bodies initially (Haaretz)

UN Security Council backs US Israel-Gaza ceasefire plan (BBC)

Blinken expresses frustration at changes to Gaza ceasefire deal requested by Hamas (CNN)

Sinwar tells Hamas officials that Gaza civilians killed are 'necessary sacrifices', WSJ reports (Haaretz)

IDF says Hezbollah fired over 200 rockets at Israel's north as border hostilities peak (Haaretz)

Hamas played ceasefire talks perfectly. Israel’s next move is crucial (Rob Eshman, Forward) 

Why the departure of Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz does – and doesn’t – matter (Elliott Gotkine, CNN)

Israel's Finance Minister Smotrich tells hostages' families potential deal is 'collective suicide' (Haaretz)


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