Hamas and Israel Face Pressure to Embrace Cease-Fire Adopted by U.N.

A day after the United Nations Security Council endorsed a U.S.-backed cease-fire proposal for the Gaza Strip, the focus shifted on Tuesday to the willingness of Israel and Hamas, under growing international pressure to end the war, to make a deal.

Each side made positive but vague statements about the cease-fire plan and blamed the other for prolonging a war that has devastated Gaza. But neither said it would formally embrace the proposal, which was outlined last month in a speech by President Biden and was the basis of the 14-0 vote in the Security Council on Monday.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, touring the region for the eighth time since the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel, said on Tuesday that the fate of the cease-fire proposal rested with Hamas’s top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar.

Husam Badran, a senior Hamas official, countered that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was “the sole obstacle to reaching an agreement that would end the war.”

An Israeli government official said in a statement that the proposed deal “enables Israel to achieve” its war goals, including destroying Hamas’s capabilities and freeing all the hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and its allies. But the official, who could be quoted only on that condition that the name and office be withheld, stopped short of saying whether Israel would accept the agreement.

Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly declined to take a firm stand on the plan. Last week, he sowed doubts when he called the idea of a negotiated permanent cease-fire — which Hamas has called essential — a “nonstarter.” Far-right elements of his governing coalition have threatened to bolt if Mr. Netanyahu accepts a cease-fire, potentially toppling him from power.

Yet the Biden administration insists not only that Israel has endorsed the proposal, but that it was also Israel’s plan to begin with. Mr. Blinken said he had received explicit assurances from Mr. Netanyahu in their meeting on Monday that he supported the proposal, suggesting that the prime minister was saying one thing to the United States and another to his coalition partners.

Hamas and an allied group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, issued a statement late on Tuesday saying they had given Egypt and Qatar a response to the U.N. resolution, but did not say they had accepted it. They stressed their readiness to negotiate and their demand for an Israeli withdrawal — points they had made many times before. Qatar and Egypt act as intermediaries between Israel and Hamas, which do not communicate directly with each other.

An official with knowledge of the talks said the groups’ response called for amendments to the cease-fire plan, including firm timetables for not only a short-term truce, but also a permanent one, and for a full Israeli withdrawal.

Later, an Israeli official who said the Israeli negotiating team had received a copy of Hamas’s response described it as a rejection of the proposal that had been presented by Mr. Biden. The Israeli official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks.

Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv, Mr. Blinken put the onus on Mr. Sinwar, who is thought to be hiding underground in Gaza. Mr. Blinken questioned whether Hamas would act in the best interests of the Palestinian people by accepting a deal that would allow more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

Alternatively, he said, Hamas could be “looking after one guy,” Mr. Sinwar, “who may be for now safe, I don’t know, 10 stories underground somewhere in Gaza, while the people that he purports to represent continue to suffer in the crossfire of his own making.”

Mr. Sinwar was an architect of the Oct. 7 attacks, which Israeli officials say killed 1,200 people.

His calculations toward the conflict came into sharper focus on Tuesday with the publication of messages he reportedly sent to negotiators. Citing what it said were missives sent to other Hamas leaders in Doha, Qatar, The Wall Street Journal quoted Mr. Sinwar as saying, “We have the Israelis right where we want them.”

Mr. Sinwar is also quoted making comparisons to the many hundreds of thousands of people killed in Algeria’s independence struggle, calling civilian casualties “necessary sacrifices.”

The message reinforced the notion put forward by some experts that Mr. Sinwar is calculating that more fighting — and civilian deaths in Gaza — would strengthen Hamas’s hand vis-à-vis Israel.

More than 36,000 people have been killed and about 80,000 people have been injured in eight months, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, which says that the majority of the dead are women, children and older people. Israeli bombardment has reduced much of the territory to ruins, and food and other supplies are running critically short.

At a conference in Jordan on emergency relief for Palestinians, Mr. Blinken on Tuesday announced $404 million in new U.S. aid for Gaza. But $2 billion to $3 billion more is needed, he said, urging other countries to pitch in.

In a statement, the State Department said the new aid commitment would provide “food, safe drinking water, health care, protection, education, shelter and psychosocial support.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Blinken made a public call for ratcheting up pressure on Hamas for a deal and singled out Mr. Sinwar in that effort. “It really is down to one person at this point,” he said.

“My primary and first message today to every government, to every multilateral institution, to every humanitarian organization that wants to relieve the massive suffering in Gaza: Get Hamas to take the deal,” Mr. Blinken said. “Press them publicly. Press them privately.”

The resolution adopted by the Security Council calls for an immediate cease-fire and negotiations on reaching a permanent end to fighting; it also says that if those talks take longer than six weeks, the temporary truce would be extended. That appears to open the door to a longer pause in the war, one that some Israeli leaders have been loath to accept.

Mr. Blinken emphasized that “the commitment in agreeing to the proposal is to seek that enduring cease-fire,” adding: “But that has to be negotiated.”

Along with the immediate cease-fire, the first phase of the three-phase agreement calls for a major influx of aid to Gaza, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas of the territory. It also includes the release of hostages being held there, including women, older people and the wounded, in exchange for a larger number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons

The second phase calls for a permanent cease-fire with the agreement of both parties, a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of any remaining hostages. The third phase would consist of a multiyear reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages.

Mr. Blinken called the Security Council vote a sign that Hamas would be isolated if it did not agree to the proposed deal. The resolution “made it as clear as it possibly could be that this is what the world is looking for,” he said.

Russia and the United States had clashed repeatedly over previous Gaza cease-fire resolutions, with each country using its veto power to block Security Council measures backed by the other. But on Monday, Russia abstained, allowing the latest resolution to pass.

Adam Rasgon and Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting.

Palestinians,Israel-Gaza War (2023- ),Civilian Casualties,Peace Process,International Relations,Refugees and Displaced Persons,Terrorism,Humanitarian Aid,Kidnapping and Hostages,Hamas,Security Council (UN),State Department,Wall Street Journal,Blinken, Antony J,Netanyahu, Benjamin,Sinwar, Yehya,Biden, Joseph R Jr,Gaza Strip,Israel,Jordan, #Hamas #Israel #Face #Pressure #Embrace #CeaseFire #Adopted #U.N

Leave a Reply

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