Blinken says US will try to bridge Israel-Hamas gaps on deal

Blinken says US will try to bridge Israel-Hamas gaps on deal
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Hamas had suggested numerous changes but a senior official with the group denied it had put forward new ideas.
3 min read
Antony Blinken is the US's top diplomat [IBRAHEEM AL-OMARI/POOL/AFP/Getty]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken vowed Wednesday to work to seal a Gaza ceasefire agreement.

He said Hamas had suggested numerous changes but a senior official with the group denied it had put forward new ideas. 

Consulting with key mediator Qatar on the Hamas response to the plan outlined by US President Joe Biden, Blinken said the Palestinian group could have given a "clear and simple yes" but voiced guarded hope for moving forward.

"We believe that some of the requested changes are workable and some are not," Blinken told reporters in Doha.

"And so we have to see on an urgent basis over the course of the coming days whether those gaps are bridgeable."

But he said the onus was on Hamas, describing the rest of the world as united in seeking an end to the eight-month war.

"We're determined to try to bridge the gaps. And I believe those gaps are bridgeable," Blinken said.

"That doesn't mean they will be bridged because, ultimately, Hamas has to decide," he said.

"The longer this goes on, the more people will suffer, and it's time for the haggling to stop."

He added: "I believe it's absolutely necessary to try our hardest to do it. But there's no guarantee."

But senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan denied on Wednesday that the Palestinian group had put forward new ideas for the US-backed proposal for a Gaza ceasefire.

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Hamdan, speaking to The New Arab's sister broadcaster Al-Araby TV, also said Blinken was "part of the problem, not the solution" in the Gaza war.

"In everything that we presented, we affirmed our commitment to what was presented on 5 May to the mediators and we did not talk about any new ideas or proposals," Hamdan said.

He reiterated Hamas's stance that it was Israel that was rejecting proposals and accused the US administration of going along with its close ally to "evade any commitment" to a blueprint for a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Hamdan also demanded guarantees from mediators to ensure that Israel does not "evade its responsibilities".

The plan Biden laid out on 31 May calls for an Israeli withdrawal from "major population centres" and a ceasefire for six weeks, which could then be extended if negotiators need more time to seek a permanent deal.

Blinken declined to elaborate on the Hamas demands.

He reiterated that Israel was behind the ceasefire, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not formally endorsed it and has far-right government members who have vowed to stop the deal.

'Day-after planning'

Blinken, concluding his latest crisis trip to four countries including Israel, also highlighted a key concern of the United States with its ally – that it does not have a plan for what happens after the war.

"In the coming weeks, we will put forward proposals for key elements of day-after planning," Blinken said.

Blinken said the proposals would cover how to handle Gaza governance, security, and reconstruction.

The Biden administration has proposed putting the Palestinian Authority back in charge of Gaza, run for nearly two decades by Hamas.

The United States has butted heads on the issue with Netanyahu, who has long sought to isolate the West Bank-based PA and has repeatedly opposed the creation of a Palestinian state.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani acknowledged that one key divide between Israel and Hamas was on whether a ceasefire would be temporary or permanent.

The US proposal calls for a six-week truce that would be extended until negotiations reach a more permanent settlement.

Al Thani said the emirate would keep working with Egypt and the United States to "bridge the gap to find a way to end the war as soon as possible".

(AFP, Reuters)