Hamas accepts Egypt-Qatar Gaza truce plan ahead of Israel's Rafah assault

Hamas announced it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a ceasefire to halt Israel's seven-month-long war on Gaza. (Photo/AA)

Hamas announced it has accepted an Egyptian-Qatari proposal for a ceasefire to halt Israel's seven-month-long war on Gaza, hours after Tel Aviv ordered about 100,000 Palestinians to begin evacuating from the southern city of Rafah, signalling that a long-promised ground invasion there could be imminent.

Hamas said in a statement on Monday that its top leader, Ismail Haniya, had delivered the news in a phone call with Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s intelligence minister.

After the release of the statement, Palestinians erupted in cheers in the sprawling tent camps around Rafah, hoping the deal meant an Israeli attack had been averted.

There was no immediate comment from Tel Aviv on the deal but an Israeli official said Hamas has agreed to a "softened" version of an Egyptian proposal that included "far-reaching" conclusions that Israel could not accept.

"This would appear to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal," said the Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

In recent days, Egyptian and Hamas officials have said the ceasefire would take place in a series of stages during which Hamas would release hostages it is holding in exchange for Israeli troop pullbacks from Gaza.

It is not clear whether the deal will meet Hamas’ key demand of bringing about an end to the war and complete Israeli withdrawal.

Assault on Rafah

Israel’s closest allies, including the United States, have repeatedly said that Israel shouldn't attack Rafah. The looming operation has raised global alarm over the fate of around 1.4 million Palestinians sheltering there.

Aid agencies have warned that an offensive will worsen Gaza's humanitarian catastrophe and bring a surge of more civilian deaths in an Israeli campaign that in nearly seven months has killed 34,000 people and devastated the territory.

US President Joe Biden spoke on Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and reiterated US concerns about an invasion of Rafah.

Biden said that a ceasefire with Hamas is the best way to protect the lives of Israeli hostages held in Gaza, a National Security Council spokesperson said on condition of anonymity to discuss the call before an official White House statement was released.

Hamas and key mediator Qatar said that invading Rafah will derail efforts by international mediators to broker a cease-fire. Days earlier, Hamas had been discussing a US-backed proposal that reportedly raised the possibility of an end to the war and a pullout of Israeli troops in return for the release of all hostages held by the group.

Israeli officials have rejected that trade-off, vowing to continue their campaign until Hamas is destroyed.


Source: TRT