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Hamas lobs cease-fire ball into Israel’s court

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamas responded Tuesday to the US cease-fire proposal for Gaza, reportedly requesting a change to the timeline for a permanent cease-fire and “complete halt” to the war, not just a six-week or phased truce. “The ball is now in the Israeli courtyard,” a Hamas official said. At least one Israeli official said that Hamas’s response effectively amounted to a rejection of the deal laid out by President Joe Biden.

The full details of Hamas’s response remain unclear, but it appears that the militant group is making demands that will be unacceptable to Israel, including the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. That would leave the door open for Hamas to stay in power in Gaza, which Israel will see as an unacceptable security threat.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not publicly committed to Biden’s cease-fire plan — even though Sec. of State Antony Blinken has said Bibi was onboard. The Israeli leader has repeatedly said the war can’t end until Hamas is destroyed, and the far-right members of his flimsy coalition government have threatened to skedaddle if the plan moves forward.

Hamas may be deliberately making demands it knows Netanyahu won’t agree to in an attempt to prolong the war, boost the Palestinian national cause, and further damage Israel’s global image as the civilian death toll rises. Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s military leader, reportedly recently told followers that they have “the Israelis right where we want them” and that civilian deaths are “necessary sacrifices.”

We’ll be watching to see how negotiators react to Hamas moving the goalposts. The White House on Tuesday said it’s “evaluating” the response.


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