Hamas 'generally positive' over Gaza ceasefire proposal and hostage release, Qatar says

6 February 2024, 17:53 | Updated: 6 February 2024, 18:32

Hamas has given a 'generally positive' response to a Gaza ceasefire proposal and releasing remaining Israeli hostages, Qatar's prime minister has announced
Hamas has given a 'generally positive' response to a Gaza ceasefire proposal and releasing remaining Israeli hostages, Qatar's prime minister has announced. Picture: Alamy

By Christian Oliver

Hamas has responded in a 'generally positive spirit' to a Gaza ceasefire proposal and releasing remaining Israeli hostages, Qatar's prime minister has announced.

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“I would like to inform the media that we have received a reply from Hamas with regards to the general framework of the agreement with regard to hostages,” Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

The prime minister, whose country has long acted as a mediator for the militant group, was speaking at a press conference beside US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive," he said. "However, given the sensitivity of the circumstances, we will not tackle details."

Al Thani said "we are optimistic" and that they have delivered the response to the Israeli party.

Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, right, speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Diwan Annex, in Doha, Qatar
Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, right, speaks during a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, at Diwan Annex, in Doha, Qatar. Picture: Alamy

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Israel has previously ruled out a permanent cease-fire previously sought by the militant group.

Blinken is now due to head to Israel later today, where he said he will brief the country's leaders.

Qatar has long acted as a mediator for Hamas and has been working in coordination with both the US and Egypt to broker a cease-fire and the release of more than 100 hostages still held by the militant group after its October 7 attacks.

A fires burns after an Israeli military strike inside the Gaza Strip as an Israeli flare falls nearby, December 14, 2023
A fires burns after an Israeli military strike inside the Gaza Strip as an Israeli flare falls nearby, December 14, 2023. Picture: Alamy

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Blinken has pressed ahead with the diplomatic tour of the Middle East, amid growing concerns in Egypt about Israel's stated intentions to expand the combat in Gaza to areas on the Egyptian border that are crammed with displaced Palestinians.

Israel's defence minister has said the country's offensive will eventually reach the town of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, where more than half of Gaza's 2.3 million people have sought refuge and live in increasingly miserable conditions.

UN humanitarian monitors said on Tuesday that Israeli evacuation orders now cover two thirds of Gaza's territory, driving thousands more people every day towards the border areas.

Egypt has warned that an Israeli deployment along the border would threaten the peace treaty the two countries signed more than four decades ago.

Egypt fears an expansion of combat to the Rafah area could push terrified Palestinian civilians across the border, a scenario Egypt has said it is determined to prevent.

Blinken, who was meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, has said repeatedly that Palestinians must not be forced out of Gaza.

During his latest trip, Blinken is seeking progress on a ceasefire deal, on the potential normalisation of relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and on preventing an escalation of regional fighting.

On all three fronts, Blinken faces major challenges. Hamas and Israel are publicly at odds over key elements of a potential truce.

Israel has dismissed the United States' calls for a path to a Palestinian state, and Iran's militant allies in the region have shown little sign of being deterred by US strikes.

Egypt - along with Qatar, where Blinken will visit later today - have been trying to mediate an agreement between Israel and Hamas that would lead to the release of more hostages in return for a pause in Israeli military operations.

The outlines of such a deal were worked out by intelligence chiefs from the US, Egypt, Qatar and Israel late last month and have been presented to Hamas, which has not yet formally responded.

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