Hamas Accepts U.N. Truce to End Gaza War

Hamas has agreed to a U.N. resolution aimed at ending the conflict in Gaza and is ready to negotiate the details. Although this is seen as a hopeful sign by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, there are still significant hurdles, with both Israel and Hamas maintaining conflicting goals.

Reuters | Updated: 12-06-2024 00:48 IST | Created: 12-06-2024 00:48 IST
Hamas Accepts U.N. Truce to End Gaza War
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Hamas accepts a U.N. resolution backing a plan to end the war with Israel in Gaza and is ready to negotiate details, a senior official of the Palestinian militant group said on Tuesday in what the U.S. Secretary of State called a hopeful sign.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators said they had received a formal reply from Hamas to the U.N.-backed truce proposal, and Hamas and its ally Palestinian Islamic Jihad expressed "readiness to positively" reach a deal to end the war in Gaza in a joint statement on Tuesday. However both Israel and Hamas have suggested the plan meets their clashing goals, raising doubts over whether any genuine headway towards a deal can be made.

"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 told Reuters. Discussions also touching on post-war plans for Gaza will continue over the next couple of days, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Tel Aviv after talks with Israeli leaders.

Blinken met Israeli officials on Tuesday in a push to end the eight-month-old Israeli air and ground war against Hamas that has devastated Gaza, a day after President Joe Biden's proposal for a truce was approved by the U.N. Security Council. Ahead of Blinken's trip, Israel and Hamas both repeated hardline positions that have scuttled previous rounds of truce mediation, while Israel has pressed on with assaults in central and southern Gaza, among the bloodiest of the war.

Palestinian residents said Israeli forces operating in the southern city of Rafah blew up a cluster of homes on Tuesday and and an Israeli air strike in a main street in Gaza City killed four people, medics said. Biden's proposal envisages a ceasefire and phased release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war.

On Tuesday, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri, who is based outside Gaza, said it accepted the ceasefire resolution and was ready to negotiate over the specifics. This required a formula stipulating the total withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a swap of hostages held in Gaza for Palestinians jailed in Israel, he told Reuters.

"The U.S. administration is facing a real test to carry out its commitments in compelling the occupation to immediately end the war in an implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution," Abu Zuhri said. Blinken said earlier the Hamas statement was "a hopeful sign" but definitive word was still needed from the Hamas leadership inside Israeli-besieged Gaza.

After Blinken left for Jordan, a senior Israeli government official, who asked not to be identified, said the published proposal would enable Israel to achieve its war goals. The official repeated Israel's stance that Hamas' military and governing capabilities in Gaza must be annihilated, and all hostages freed with Gaza posing no future threat to Israel.

The war began when Hamas-led Palestinian militants stormed into southern Israel from Gaza on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 as hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Israel's retaliatory air and ground onslaught in Gaza has killed at least 37,164 Palestinians, the Gaza health ministry said in an update on Tuesday, and reduced most of the narrow, coastal enclave to wasteland, with malnutrition widespread.

The U.S. is Israel's closest ally and biggest arms supplier but, along with much of the world, has become sharply critical of the huge civilian death toll in Gaza and the destruction and humanitarian calamity wrought by the Israeli offensive. In the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Palestinians reacted warily to the Security Council vote, fearing it could prove yet another ceasefire initiative that goes nowhere.

"We will believe it only when we see it," said Shaban Abdel-Raouf, 47, a displaced family of five sheltering in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, a frequent target of Israeli firepower. "When they tell us to pack our belongings and prepare to go back to Gaza City, we will know it is true," he told Reuters via a chat app.

POST-WAR PLANNING 'IMPERATIVE', BLINKEN SAYS Blinken said his talks were also addressing day-after plans for Gaza, including security, governance, and reconstruction of the enclave.

As part of his eighth trouble-shooting trip to the Middle East since the Gaza conflict ignited, Blinken also sought steps to prevent months of border clashes between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah from escalating into a spillover war. On Monday, Blinken had talks in Cairo with President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt, a key mediator in the war, in Cairo before proceeding to Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yoav Gallant.

Blinken's consultations in Israel on Tuesday included centrist former military chief Benny Gantz - who resigned from Israel's war cabinet on Sunday over what he said was Netanyahu's failure to outline a plan for ending the conflict. Blinken, speaking later in the day at a conference in Jordan on the humanitarian response for Gaza, announced $404 million in aid for Palestinians and called on other donors to also step up.

Egypt's Sisi told the gathering on the Dead Sea that nations should force Israel to stop what he called the use of hunger as a weapon and remove obstacles to aid distribution in Gaza. Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, but there has been only one, week-long truce, in November, when over 100 hostages were freed in exchange for about 240 Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israeli forces rescued four hostages held by Hamas in a commando raid into a crowded urban refugee camp in central Gaza on Saturday during which 274 Palestinians were killed by heavy Israeli firepower, according to Gaza's health authorities.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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