Hamas to accept truce deal only if Israel commits to ceasefire

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar reasserted that the group would not agree to any truce deals without a permanent ceasefire [Getty]

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar told negotiators that he would accept a truce deal only if Israel commits to a permanent ceasefire, while Israeli leaders, the US president and negotiators wait for the group to respond to a truce proposal put forward by Israel.

“Hamas will not surrender its guns or sign a proposal that asks for that,” Arab mediators said Sinwar told them on Thursday.

Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs spokesman said on Thursday that mediators are yet to receive a response from Hamas on the latest proposal, affirming Qatar, Egypt and the US are pressing forward with their joint mediation efforts.

Sinwar’s response came as the Israeli army struck a UN school that had turned into a shelter for forcibly displaced Palestinians in Nuseirat, central Gaza.

Palestinian health officials said at least 40 people were killed in the attack, including several children.

Egypt said it has reportedly received ‘positive signals’ from Hamas indicating its willingness to reach a ceasefire deal on Thursday.

The Arabic news website Arabi21 quoted a high-ranking Egyptian source as saying that the group will present its response to an Israeli proposal announced by US President Joe Biden within the next few days.

Both Qatar and Egypt, two key mediators, said Hamas’s response to Biden’s speech was positive, but are yet to give an official response.

Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, also said on Wednesday that the movement would deal “seriously and positively” with any agreement on the basis that a permanent ceasefire is achieved in Gaza, along with the exchange of captives and detainees.

The three-stage proposal, which was presented by US President Joe Biden,  includes a prisoner exchange in the first stage, followed by sustaining a ceasefire and then the reconstruction of Gaza as the final stage.

Netanyahu called Biden’s presentation of the proposal “inaccurate”.

“I did not agree to end the war in the second phase of the proposal, but only to discuss that step according to Tel Aviv’s terms,” he said.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC that the Israeli hostage deal proposal is still “a live proposal”, adding “the Israeli government has reconfirmed as recently as today that the proposal is still on the table and it is up to Hamas to accept it”.

CNN reported that Qatar threatened Hamas leaders with expulsion if the group does not agree to a ceasefire and hostage release deal.

A senior Hamas official reportedly responded saying that an expulsion is not being considered, adding that they want an agreement that safeguards the Palestinian people’s national interests.

He added that any expulsion of Hamas’ leadership in Gaza will have “no effect, and may only harden Hamas’ position”.

The Israeli proposal has caused some divides, with doubts surfacing over if the Israeli government will approve it, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extremist allies Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich threatening to quit the government if it is approved.

Ben Gvir’s Otzma Yehudit party also said on Wednesday that it would reserve the right to not vote with the coalition in the Knesset until Netanyahu reveals details on the ceasefire proposal.

The party issued a statement accusing the prime minister of hiding details of the draft agreement.

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