Hamas says it approves of cease-fire proposal, but Israel has not signed off

Hamas says that it approves of a cease-fire proposal presented by Egypt and Qatar, according to a statement on a Palestinian news site.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke on the phone with Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and with Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamel, “and informed them of Hamas’s approval of their proposal regarding a ceasefire agreement,” the group said in a statement published on Shehab News Monday.

But Israeli officials, according to Reuters, say that Hamas approved a proposal that had been “softened” by Egypt and that Israel would not accept. Israel has not formally commented on the proposal Hamas accepted, and details about any potential release of hostages, Palestinian prisoners or duration of a cease-fire have not been released. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the U.S. only just received a copy of what he said was Hamas’ “response,” but he did not characterize it further. 

“I can confirm that Hamas has issued a response,” Miller told reporters Monday. “We are reviewing that response now and discussing it with our partners in the region. … We continue to believe that a hostage deal is in the best interests of the Israeli people. It’s in the best interests of the Palestinian people. It would bring an immediate ceasefire.”

It is not clear whether Hamas responded to a proposal approved by the U.S. Asked which proposal Hamas accepted, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters at the White House, “I’m not going to get into that.” 

Kirby said President Biden has been briefed on Hamas’ response. 

CIA Director William Burns traveled to Cairo to join the talks late last week and is now in Doha, Qatar, as negotiations continue.

Mr. Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday for about 30 minutes and “updated the prime minister on efforts to secure a hostage deal,” the White House said. But Kirby said that call ended before reports of Hamas’ response emerged. 

Hamas was labeled a terrorist group by the U.S. and Israel long before Hamas launched a surprise attack on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,100 and taking more than 250 hostages.

Israel’s military warned about 100,000 Palestinians in the eastern part of the Gaza city of Rafah to evacuate Monday ahead of a ground offensive long threatened by Israeli leaders. The message was delivered with fliers, phone calls, messages and media broadcasts in Arabic after a weekend that saw hope for a new cease-fire in the seven-month Israel-Hamas war dashed yet again. 

Tucker Reals and Camilla Schick contributed to this report.

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