Hamas leader demands full end to Gaza war in truce

June 6, 2024 by AAP
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The leader of Hamas says the group will demand a permanent end to the war in Gaza and Israeli withdrawal as part of a ceasefire plan, dealing an apparent blow to a truce proposal touted last week by US President Joe Biden.

Ismail Haniyeh

Israel, meanwhile, said there would be no halt to fighting during ceasefire talks, and launched a new assault on a central section of the Gaza Strip near the last city yet to be stormed by its tanks.

The remarks by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh appeared to deliver the Palestinian militant group’s reply to the proposal that Biden unveiled last week.

The US government had said it was waiting to hear an answer from Hamas to what Biden described as an Israeli initiative.

“The movement and factions of the resistance will deal seriously and positively with any agreement that is based on a comprehensive ending of the aggression and the complete withdrawal and prisoners swap,” Haniyeh said.

Asked whether Haniyeh’s remarks amounted to the group’s reply to Biden, a senior Hamas official replied to a text message from Reuters with a “thumbs up” emoji.

The US is still pressing hard to reach an agreement.

CIA director William Burns met senior officials from mediators Qatar and Egypt on Wednesday in Doha to discuss the ceasefire proposal.

Since a brief week-long truce in November, all attempts to arrange a ceasefire have failed, with Hamas insisting on its demand for a permanent end to the conflict while Israel says it is prepared to discuss only temporary pauses until the militant group is defeated.

Biden has repeatedly declared that ceasefires were close over the past several months, only for no truce to materialise.

Notably, in February Biden said Israel had agreed to a ceasefire by the start of the Ramadan Muslim holy month on March 10, a deadline which passed with military operations in full swing.

But last week’s announcement came with far greater fanfare from the White House, and at a time when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is under mounting domestic political pressure to chart a path to end the eight-month-old war and negotiate the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

Three US officials told Reuters Biden, having obtained Israel’s agreement for the proposal, had deliberately announced it without warning the Israelis he would do so, to narrow the room for Netanyahu to back away.

“We didn’t ask permission to announce the proposal,” said a senior US official granted anonymity to speak freely about the negotiations.

“We informed the Israelis we were going to give a speech on the situation in Gaza. We did not go into great detail about what it was.”

Hamas, who rule Gaza, precipitated the war by attacking Israeli territory on October 7, killing about 1200 people and capturing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

About half of the hostages were freed in the war’s only truce so far, which lasted a week in November.

Israel’s military assault on Gaza has killed more than 36,000 people, according to health officials in the territory, who say thousands more dead are feared buried under the rubble.

Although Biden described the ceasefire proposal as an Israeli offer, Israel’s government has been lukewarm in public.

A top Netanyahu aide confirmed on Sunday Israel had made the proposal even though it was “not a good deal”.

The full details have not been published but Israel insists that it would not sign up to any proposal that requires it to halt the war before Hamas is completely destroyed.

The militants, meanwhile, have shown no sign of surrender and their main leaders are still at large.

“The outline allows Israel to realise all of the objectives: to destroy Hamas militarily and its governing capabilities, to bring home our hostages and ensure that Gaza can never form a threat to us again,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said on Wednesday of the ceasefire proposal.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said there would be no let-up in Israel’s offensive while negotiations over the ceasefire proposal were under way.

“Any negotiations with Hamas would be conducted only under fire,” Gallant said in remarks carried by Israeli media after he flew aboard a warplane to inspect the Gaza front.


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