Hamas responds to ceasefire proposal as Blinken meets Israeli leaders

Hamas has presented a detailed plan for a new ceasefire and hostage release agreement with Israel, which will be discussed when US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Israeli leaders on Wednesday.

Qatar’s prime minister said Tuesday that Hamas gave a “generally positive” response to the latest plan for Gaza, but that the Palestinian militant group’s response would effectively leave the militant group in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities, a scenario that Israel flatly rejects.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million is now overcrowded in the city of Rafah on the border with Egypt and surrounding areas, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The Palestinian death toll after nearly four months of war has reached 27,707 people, Gaza’s Health Ministry said.

A quarter of Gaza residents are starving and 85 percent of the population has been driven from their homes, with hundreds of thousands surviving in makeshift camps.


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Saudi Arabia will not establish ties with Israel

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia says it will not normalize ties with Israel without recognition of an independent Palestinian state and a full Israeli military withdrawal from Gaza.

The Foreign Ministry outlined its “firm position” in a statement issued on Wednesday, two days after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Biden administration has spent much of the past year pushing for a potentially historic deal in which Saudi Arabia would recognize Israel in exchange for U.S. defense guarantees, assistance in establishing a civilian nuclear program, and major progress toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. .

In the latest statement, Saudi Arabia appeared to escalate its demands.

“The Kingdom has communicated its firm position to the US administration that there will be no diplomatic relations with Israel unless an independent Palestinian state is recognized on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, and that Israeli aggression on the Strip Gaza cease and all Israeli occupation forces withdraw from the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.

Israel captured east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (territories the Palestinians want for their future state) in the 1967 Middle East War.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem in a move not recognized by most of the international community and considers the entire city its capital. It has built Jewish settlements throughout the occupied West Bank that now house more than 500,000 Israelis. It withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, but together with Egypt imposed a blockade on the territory when Hamas took power there two years later.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads a government staunchly opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state and has said Israel will maintain indefinite security control over Gaza even after the war against Hamas.

Hamas responds to ceasefire plan

BEIRUT – Hamas’s response to a proposed ceasefire and hostage release agreement has been published in a Lebanese newspaper.

The document, whose authenticity was confirmed by officials, offers the clearest view yet of the group’s demands for the release of more than 100 hostages it is holding in Gaza.

The response to a plan drawn up by the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt foresees a three-phase agreement that will take place over four and a half months until the end of the war and the release of all hostages.

Hamas’s proposal would effectively leave the militant group in power in Gaza and allow it to rebuild its military capabilities, a scenario that Israel flatly rejects.

In the first 45-day phase, Hamas would release all remaining women and children, as well as elderly men and the sick, in exchange for the release of all women, children, sick and elderly prisoners held by Israel. Israel would release an additional 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 500 specified by Hamas, likely high-profile militants serving life sentences.

Israel would withdraw its forces from population centers, halt air operations, and allow much more humanitarian aid in and reconstruction to begin. It would also allow displaced people to return to their homes, including in northern Gaza, and open all crossings.

In the second phase, which would be negotiated during the first, Hamas would release the remaining hostages, mainly soldiers and civilians, in exchange for more prisoners, and Israel would complete its withdrawal from Gaza. The two sides would exchange the remains of hostages and deceased prisoners in a third stage, leading to a long-term truce.

A Hamas official and two Egyptian officials confirmed the authenticity of the document published by the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media about the delicate negotiations. The newspaper is close to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas.

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By Associated Press writers Abby Sewell and Samy Magdy

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