Gaza ceasefire: Some changes proposed by Hamas workable, some not, says Blinken

The proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas

QATAR-US-PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-DIPLOMACY US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (C) and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani (R) hold a meeting in Doha | AFP

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that mediators would keep trying to close an elusive cease-fire deal for Gaza after Hamas proposed changes to a US-backed plan, some of which he said were workable and some not.

The back-and-forth laid bare frustration over the difficulty of reaching an accord that could end eight months of war that has decimated the territory, killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and left scores of Israeli hostages still languishing in militant captivity. Previous moments of optimism have been repeatedly dashed by the differences between the two sides.

The cease-fire proposal has global support but has not been fully embraced by Israel or Hamas. Blinken did not spell out what changes Hamas sought, but he said the mediators Qatar, Egypt and the US will keep trying to close this deal. He put the onus on Hamas, accusing it of changing its demands.

"Hamas has proposed numerous changes to the proposal that was on the table. ... Some of the changes are workable. Some are not," Blinken told reporters in Qatar. "I believe that they (the differences) are bridgeable, but that doesn't mean they will be bridged because ultimately Hamas has to decide."

Blinken's comments came as Lebanon's Hezbollah fired a massive barrage of rockets into northern Israel to avenge the killing of a top commander, further escalating regional tensions.

Hezbollah, an Iran-backed ally of Hamas, has traded fire with Israel nearly every day since the Israel-Hamas war began and says it will stop only if there is a truce in Gaza. That has raised fears of an even more devastating regional conflagration.

Air-raid sirens sounded across northern Israel, and the military said about 215 projectiles were fired from southern Lebanon, making it one of the largest attacks since the fighting began. There were no immediate reports of casualties as some rockets were intercepted while others ignited brush fires.

Hamas asks for changes

Hamas conveyed its official reply to the proposal to mediators on Tuesday. Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha told the Lebanese news outlet ElNashra that the amendments requested by the group aim to guarantee a permanent cease-fire and complete Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza.

The proposal announced by US President Joe Biden includes those provisions, but Hamas has expressed wariness about whether Israel will implement the terms. While the US says Israel has accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has given conflicting statements, saying Israel is still intent on its goal of destroying Hamas.

Blinken, on his eighth visit to the region since the start of the war, said the deal on the table was virtually identical to one Hamas put forth on May 6. The UN Security Council voted overwhelmingly in favour of the plan on Monday.

"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 already accepted, you have to question whether they're proceeding in good faith or not," he said.


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