BSS
  12 Jun 2024, 11:59

Blinken heads to key mediator Qatar after Hamas truce deal reply

AMMAN, June 12, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was
heading on Wednesday to talks in key mediator Qatar after Hamas gave a reply
to a US-led proposal for a ceasefire in war-ravaged Gaza.

Blinken, on a four-country swing around the Middle East to push Hamas to
accept the truce proposal, will meet the top leadership of Qatar, which has
transmitted messages to the Palestinian militant group.

Hamas, responding to the plan laid out on May 31 by President Joe Biden,
proposed amendments late Tuesday including a ceasefire timeline and the
complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, according to a source
familiar with the talks.

The Biden plan calls for an Israeli withdrawal from "major population
centres" and a ceasefire for six weeks, which would then be extended as
negotiators reach a permanent deal.

The White House said Tuesday that the United States was "evaluating" the
reply.

US officials had privately expected Hamas to insist on at least some changes
rather than accepting the entire deal immediately, and want to see if there
is enough common ground to hammer out differences with Israel.

Biden is eager to end a war that has taken a mounting toll on civilians and
turned parts of his Democratic Party base against him months ahead of razor-
close elections.

Blinken said in Israel on Tuesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has
committed himself to the plan, although the Israeli government, which has
far-right members, has not formally endorsed it.

Blinken on Tuesday pressed Hamas's elusive Gaza-based leader, Yahya Sinwar,
to take the deal.

"Are they looking after one guy who may be for now safe -- buried, I don't
know, 10 storeys underground somewhere in Gaza -- while the people that he
purports to represent continue to suffer in a crossfire of his own making?"
Blinken told reporters in Tel Aviv.

Israel says that Sinwar masterminded the October 7 attack that resulted in
the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based
on Israeli official figures.

The Israeli army has responded with a devastating offensive in Gaza that has
left at least 37,164 people dead, the majority of them civilians, according
to the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry.

Blinken will meet in Doha with both the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-
Thani, and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who is
also the wealthy kingdom's top diplomat, according to the State Department.

Later on Wednesday, Blinken will fly to Italy to join Biden at the summit of
the Group of Seven major industrial democracies.

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