New wording could revive Biden’s ceasefire deal

American sources say there is still hope that Hamas will agree to free the hostages


Israelis call for the release of hostages. Dual American-Israeli citizen Hersh Goldberg-Polin was seized by Hamas fighters from a bomb shelter in which he was hiding (Photo: Getty Images)

The Biden administration is suggesting new language for its Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal after the terror group rejected the framework presented by President Joe Biden on May 31, Axios reported on Saturday.

Citing three US officials familiar with the negotiations, Axios reported that the Biden administration is proposing a change to Article 8, which deals with talks regarding a “sustainable calm” in Gaza, set to commence after the implementation of the first stage of the three-stage deal.

The Israeli government wants to retain the right to raise the demilitarisation of Gaza and “other issues” during this stage, according to the report. Hamas, however, is demanding that these talks focus solely on the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners to be released from Israeli jails in return for every living Israeli soldier or male hostage held in Gaza.

“The US is working very hard to find a formula that will allow reaching a deal,” one source with direct knowledge of the talks told Axios, adding that the effort is being coordinated with Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Another source told the US outlet that if Hamas agrees to the new language, “it will allow [us] to close the deal.”

The Israeli government  has accepted Biden’s truce proposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed does not call for a permanent end to the war that started with Hamas’s October 7 massacre of more than 1,200 men, women and children.

However, an Israeli official said on June 17 that in its reply to the proposal, the terrorist group made “substantial changes to dozens of items” in the US outline, which the United Nations Security Council had formally approved a week earlier.

Hamas is demanding an end to the war and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces, the official said, adding that Jerusalem’s goals for the war still stand – the defeat of Hamas as a military and ruling power, the return of all hostages and the guarantee that Gaza cannot pose a threat to Israel.

Last week, a U.S. official confirmed for the first time that Hamas’s official response to Biden’s May 31 proposal amounted to a rejection. “They came back several weeks ago and rejected the proposal that was on the table,” said US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Hamas “gave us a written response that rejected the proposal that had been put forward by Israel, that President Biden had outlined, that the United Nations Security Council and countries all around the world had endorsed,” he told reporters.

Miller added that the administration wouldn’t release the text of the terror group’s response due to the sensitive nature of the talks, but confirmed it had received “a written rejection and counter-proposal.”

While Miller was the first US official to describe Hamas’s June 11 reply as a rejection, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously said it included changes that were “not workable.”

“A deal was on the table that was virtually identical to the proposal that Hamas made on May 6 – a deal that the entire world is behind, a deal Israel has accepted. Hamas could have answered with a single word: ‘Yes,'” the secretary stated at a June 12 press conference in Doha.

Some 250 people were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s October 7 invasion of the northwestern Negev. Thousands more were killed and wounded by the terrorist group, with numerous atrocities documented.

One hundred and twenty hostages remain in the Strip, of whom 116 were abducted on October 7 (the other four were captured earlier). The figure includes both living and deceased men, women and children.

At least dozens of the hostages are believed to be alive, a senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations told AFP this month.

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