newsIsrael at War

US: Hamas formally rejected hostage deal

Hamas submitted "a written rejection and counter-proposal," U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller confirmed for the first time.

A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.
A Hamas terrorist releases Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, Nov. 28, 2023. Credit: Flash90.

An official in Washington on Tuesday for the first time confirmed that Hamas’s response to the hostage deal outlined by U.S. President Joe Biden on May 31 amounted to a rejection.

“They came back several weeks ago and rejected the proposal that was on the table,” said U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

Hamas “gave us a written response that rejected the proposal that had been put forward by Israel, that President Biden had outlined, that the United Nations Security Council and countries all around the world had endorsed,” he told reporters, according to a State Department readout.

Miller added that the administration wouldn’t release the text of the terror group’s response due to the sensitive nature of the talks, but confirmed it had received “a written rejection and counter-proposal.”

While Miller was the first U.S. official to describe Hamas’s June 11 reply as a rejection of the proposed framework, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had previously said it included changes that were “not workable.”

“A deal was on the table that was virtually identical to the proposal that Hamas made on May 6—a deal that the entire world is behind, a deal Israel has accepted. Hamas could have answered with a single word: ‘Yes,'” the secretary stated at a June 12 press conference in Doha.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based head of Hamas’s “political” bureau, on Tuesday stressed the terror organization’s refusal to sign any deal unless Jerusalem commits to ending the war in Gaza and withdrawing all troops, conditions that Israel has repeatedly dismissed.

Any ceasefire proposal that does not guarantee an end to the IDF offensive in the enclave is “not an agreement,” said Haniyeh.

“If the criminal enemy thinks targeting my family will change our position or that of the resistance, they are delusional,” Haniyeh added, in reference to a Gaza airstrike in which one of his sisters was killed.

The IDF confirmed on Tuesday that jets had struck two buildings in the northern Strip that were being used by Hamas terrorists, including several who invaded the Jewish state on Oct. 7 and took hostages.

Arab sources reported that a sister of Haniyeh was among those killed in the strikes.

More than 250 people were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s Oct. 7 invasion of the northwestern Negev. Thousands more were killed and wounded by the terrorist group, with numerous atrocities documented.

One-hundred and twenty hostages remain in the Strip, of whom 116 were abducted on Oct. 7 (the other four were captured earlier). The figure includes both living and deceased men, women and children.

At least dozens of the remaining hostages are believed to be alive, a senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations told AFP last week.

The official noted that the Jewish state cannot commit to ending the war as a precondition for a deal because Hamas could “breach their commitment…and drag out the negotiations for 10 years” or more.

During a meeting with Blinken at the State Department on Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant emphasized the need for all parties to put more pressure on Hamas to release the captives.

Prior to his meeting with U.S. officials, including CIA director William Burns, Gallant stated in Hebrew that “it is Israel’s primary commitment to return the hostages, with no exception, to their families and homes.”

Israeli negotiators reportedly traveled to Qatar last week in an attempt to narrow the gaps between the agreed-upon hostage deal and Hamas’s demands. According to the Elaph outlet, which cited an official familiar with the talks, the meeting focused on “controversial issues,” including the number of hostages that would be released during the first phase.

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