Blinken Calls Hamas Changes to Cease-Fire Proposal Unworkable - The World News

Blinken Calls Hamas Changes to Cease-Fire Proposal Unworkable

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said on Wednesday that he would continue to press urgently for a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip despite a counterproposal from Hamas that he said included unacceptable demands.

After more than eight months of war in Gaza, the proposed cease-fire deal follows an outline made public last month by President Biden and has the endorsement of the United Nations Security Council. But Israel and Hamas still appear to be far from reaching a deal.

“In the days ahead, we are going to push on an urgent basis,” Mr. Blinken said, “to try and close this deal.”

Speaking at a news conference in Doha, Qatar, alongside Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who serves as both Qatar’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, Mr. Blinken said that “a deal was on the table that was virtually identical” to one that Hamas put forward on May 6.

But Hamas’s response, he said, which was received by Egyptian and Qatari mediators and passed to American officials on Tuesday, makes demands that “go beyond positions that it had previously taken and accepted.”

“Some of the changes are workable, some are not,” Mr. Blinken said. He declined to disclose details about the Hamas counterproposal but suggested that the group’s changing demands called into question its negotiators’ sincerity. At some point, he said, “you have to question whether they’re proceeding in good faith or not.”

An official briefed on the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss diplomacy conducted out of public view, said Hamas wanted assurances from the United States and other mediators that a permanent cease-fire would be adhered to by Israel.

While President Biden said the plan was drawn up by Israel, the Israeli government has yet to publicly accept it, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has insisted that he will not stop the war until he achieves his oft-stated goal of destroying Hamas’s governing and military capabilities.

The proposed deal calls for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and then, after the release of some Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, talks that could lead to a much longer or even permanent cease-fire, an Israeli withdrawal and the reconstruction of Gaza.

Qatar and Egypt have acted as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which do not communicate directly with each other.

Mr. Blinken said the United States would unveil proposals “in the coming weeks” that it has been developing with partners in the region to address Gaza’s governance, security and reconstruction. He spoke on the last stop of a three-day tour of the Middle East, his eighth trip to the region since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel.

As Mr. Blinken was departing the region, tensions were escalating along Israel’s northern border. On Wednesday, Hezbollah, the powerful Lebanese militia and political movement backed by Iran, launched 215 rockets into northern Israel in retaliation for an Israeli strike late on Tuesday that killed a senior commander of Hezbollah.

The commander, Taleb Abdallah, also known as Abu Taleb, was among the highest-ranking members of Hezbollah to have been killed since Hezbollah mounted cross-border attacks in support of Hamas after its Oct. 7 attacks that set off the war in Gaza.

Hezbollah claimed attacks on a string of military bases, including on Mount Meron, an area housing a military radar station that is about five miles south of the border. Hezbollah also claimed to have struck an arms factory belonging to Plasan, a manufacturer of armored vehicles used by the Israeli military.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Hezbollah rocket barrages, the Israeli military said.

Hezbollah’s rocket attacks have already forced thousands of Israelis to flee the border areas, and Israeli officials have threatened to pursue decisive military action in response to any severe attacks. The militia, for its part, has vowed to keep up the fight, raising fresh concerns that the months of low-level conflict could grow into a larger war on Israel’s northern border.

Speaking at Mr. Abdallah’s funeral in Beirut’s southern suburbs, Hashem Safieddine, the head of Hezbollah’s executive council, pledged that the group would double down on its attacks against Israel.

“If the enemy’s message is to retreat from our position in supporting the oppressed in Gaza, then he must know that our answer is final,” Mr. Safieddine said. “We will increase the intensity, quantity and quality of our operations.”

The U.S. military on Wednesday urged Israel and Hezbollah to ratchet down the tensions. “We don’t want to see a wider regional conflict and we do want to see a de-escalation of tensions in the region,” the Pentagon spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, told reporters at a news briefing.

Reacting to the escalation on the Israeli-Lebanon border, Mr. Blinken said he believed neither side would welcome a larger war. He called it “safe to say that actually no one is working to start a war, or to have escalation,” and that “there’s a strong preference for a diplomatic solution.”

The best way to calm tensions along Lebanon’s border with Israel, he said, would be a cease-fire in Gaza, which he said would “take a tremendous amount of pressure out of the system” and remove Hezbollah’s claimed justification for attacking Israel.

Reporting was contributed by Aaron Boxerman, Adam Rasgon and Abu Bakr Bashir.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *