Qatari and Egyptian Mediators to Engage Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire Proposal

By Yoni Weiss

US security advisor Jake Sullivan, (L), arrives at the Ukraine peace summit in Buergenstock, Switzerland, June 15. (AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani)

Qatari and Egyptian mediators plan to engage with Hamas soon to advance the three-phased Gaza ceasefire proposal unveiled by President Joe Biden last month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on Saturday.

“We anticipate a back-and-forth between the mediators and Hamas,” Sullivan stated. “We’ll see where we stand at that point. We will keep consulting with the Israelis and then hopefully at some point next week we’ll be able to report to you where we think things stand and what we see as being the next step to try to bring this to closure.”

Sullivan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Ukraine peace summit and addressed diplomatic efforts to secure an agreement for Hamas to release the remaining 120 hostages held since Oct. 7. He mentioned a brief conversation with Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, with plans to discuss Gaza further on Sunday during the Ukraine conference in Switzerland.

The US and Israel are grappling with how to proceed on a hostage deal in light of amendments Hamas made to Biden’s proposal, which has Israel’s backing. There are those in Israel, including many relatives of the hostages, who have called on the government to make the deal.

Israel described Hamas’s response to the new US peace proposal as a total rejection and has decided not to send further negotiating teams until the terror group accepts the proposal. The Security Cabinet is expected to meet on Sunday.

A primary stumbling block has been Hamas’s demand that Israel end the war and withdraw the IDF from Gaza before any deal begins. The proposal, which calls for a six-week lull in fighting in Phase 1, leaves this question to be decided before Phase 2 begins. Israel insists that any deal must allow the resumption of fighting to ensure that Hamas does not retain military and governmental control of Gaza.

Sullivan said US officials have closely examined Hamas’s response. “We think some of the edits are not unexpected and can be managed. Some of them are inconsistent both with what President Biden laid out and what the UN Security Council endorsed. And we are having to deal with that reality.”

He believes there remains an avenue to an agreement, with the next step being for Qatari and Egyptian mediators to discuss with Hamas what can and cannot be worked with.

Hamas spokesperson and political bureau member Osama Hamdan told CNN on Friday that it was unclear how many of the hostages were still alive. “I don’t have any idea about that. No one has an idea about this,” he said. Hamdan added that Hamas needs “a clear position from Israel to accept a ceasefire and a complete withdrawal from Gaza and to let the Palestinians determine their future by themselves.” He expressed hope that a positive approach from the US could lead to an agreement soon.

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