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Dhaka Tribune

Hamas says it will continue negotiating for ceasefire as Ramadan nears

  • Hamas says it is flexible in order to end aggression
  • Israel not present at latest ceasefire talks in Cairo
  • US draft UN Security Council solution calls for 6-week ceasefire
Update : 06 Mar 2024, 01:55 PM

The Palestinian fighter group Hamas said on Wednesday it would continue working towards achieving a ceasefire in Gaza with Israel despite the absence of Israeli negotiators from the latest round of talks in Cairo.

"We are showing the required flexibility in order to reach a comprehensive cessation of aggression against our people, but the occupation is still evading the entitlements of this agreement," Hamas said in a statement.

Negotiators from Hamas, Qatar and Egypt — but not Israel — are in Cairo trying to secure a 40-day ceasefire in the war between Israel and the Islamist group in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins early next week.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that it was in the hands of Hamas whether to accept a deal on the table for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages, as delegations held a third day of talks with no sign of a breakthrough.

The deal presented to Hamas would free some hostages captured by Palestinian in the October 7 on Israel which sparked the war, while aid to Gaza would be increased to try to avert famine as hospitals treat acutely malnourished children, and Hamas would provide a list of all the hostages held in Gaza.

The United States on Tuesday revised language in a draft UN Security Council resolution to back "an immediate ceasefire of roughly six-weeks in Gaza together with the release of all hostages," according to the text seen by Reuters.

The third revision of the text — first proposed by the United States two weeks ago — now reflects blunt remarks by Vice President Kamala Harris calling on Israel to do more to ease the "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza.

The release of sick, wounded, elderly and women hostages would result in an immediate ceasefire in Gaza of at least six weeks, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani stressed at a meeting on Tuesday, the White House said.

"This first phase of a ceasefire would also enable a surge of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza, and provide time and space to secure more enduring arrangements and sustained calm," the White House statement said.

Earlier in Beirut, Hamas official Osama Hamdan repeated his group's main demands: an end to the Israeli military offensive, withdrawal of Israeli forces, and the return of all Gazans to the homes they had been forced to flee.

He said any exchange of prisoners cannot take place except after a ceasefire. Israel for its part wants merely a pause in fighting to get hostages out of Gaza and more aid in, insisting that it will not end the conflict before Hamas is "eliminated".

Washington, Israel's main political and military backer and a sponsor of the talks, also put the onus squarely on Gaza's rulers.

"It’s in the hands of Hamas right now. Israelis have been cooperating. There’s been a rational offer," Biden told reporters. "If we get to the circumstance that it [fighting] continues to Ramadan ... it’s gonna be very dangerous."

Palestinian-Israeli violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories often spikes during Ramadan, as does hostility towards Israel in the Arab and Muslim world, creating a strong incentive for leaders to clinch a deal before then.

Hamas says it has presented own draft

Hamas says Washington's stance is designed to deflect blame from Israel if the talks collapse.

Senior Hamas official Bassem Naim said Hamas had presented its own draft deal, and was awaiting a response from Israel, adding: "(Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu doesn't want to reach an agreement and the ball now is in the Americans' court."

A source had told Reuters earlier that Israel was staying away because Hamas had refused to furnish a list of hostages who are still alive. Naim said this was impossible without a ceasefire as hostages were scattered across the war zone.

The US has also urged Israel to do more to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, where more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel's assault, launched after Hamas attacks that killed 1,200 people in October.

"We must get more aid into Gaza," Biden said.

Famine looms over the Gaza Strip as aid supplies, already sharply curtailed during the war, have dwindled to barely a trickle. Swathes of the territory are completely cut off from food. Gaza's few functioning hospitals, already overwhelmed by the wounded, are now filling with children starving to death.

The US military, in coordination with Jordan, airdropped 36,000 meals into northern Gaza on Tuesday, a programme Washington began last week. Aid agencies say this is paltry compared to the scale of the hunger.

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