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Hamas says it's preparing to respond to Israel's latest Gaza cease-fire proposal

People inspect damage and remove items from their homes following Israeli airstrikes on April 7, in Khan Yunis, Gaza.
Ahmad Hasaballah
Getty Images
People inspect damage and remove items from their homes following Israeli airstrikes on April 7, in Khan Yunis, Gaza.

Updated April 27, 2024 at 12:10 PM ET

Hamas says it's examining the latest Israeli suggestions for a cease-fire in Gaza, seven months into the conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and that Israeli leaders have said could soon intensify further if a deal between the two sides is not reached.

International efforts are continuing to try to firm up areas of agreement, with mediators led by Egypt at the heart of efforts to encourage both sides to end the violence.

A senior Hamas official told NPR that the militant group would respond to Israel's latest proposed conditions once it had examined them in full, but was "still studying" them and there was "no scheduled timing" for their response.

He did not offer specifics about Israel's proposals, but said it followed conditions Hamas had laid down earlier this month, which focused on an exchange involving Israeli captives held in Gaza for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, as well as a six-week cessation of hostilities.

An Egyptian delegation left Israel on Friday, an official told AP, after holding discussions over the possibility of a multi-phase and lengthy Gaza cease-fire. The plan would allow civilians currently in the south of the territory to return to their homes further north, and might eventually lead to a more permanent agreement that ends the fighting altogether.

A major U.S. concern — shared by its international partners — is that the Israeli military will launch a full-scale assault on Gaza's southernmost city, Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have sought shelter after fleeing the widespread fighting elsewhere in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has argued that further ground-based military action in Rafah is necessary for it to destroy remaining groups of Hamas fighters. But several countries including neighboring Egypt have said that any such offensive by the Israelis would have even more severe consequences for civilians, and could further destabilize the broader region.

Nonetheless Israeli forces have massed around the city, where airstrikes continue to take place daily. On Saturday one airstrike in the city killed four children, according to local health officials. Hamas has repeatedly said it will not enter into a new agreement unless it contains a provision for a permanent truce.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has begun construction of an offshore loading platform to help deliver more aid to Gaza, with plans for trucks to be ferried from that platform to a temporary pier on the Gaza coastline as part of a large-scale operation that could begin within weeks.

An official from the World Economic Forum said senior leaders, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, will meet in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh next week. The prime minister of Qatar, another nation at the center of Gaza cease-fire negotiations will attend, alongside the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, as well as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. He will travel there after an expected Tuesday visit to Israel as the State Department is reviewing whether to suspend aid for an Israel military unit that it found had committed serious human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Meanwhile China will also host senior leaders from Abbas' Fatah party and Hamas next week for further talks, designed to help heal a long-running political dispute between the two factions that had until Oct. 7 ruled respectively over Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. government does not publicly support any such reconciliation, given that it considers Hamas a terrorist group but recognizes the legitimacy of Fatah and its leadership of the Palestinian Authority that exercises limited self-rule in the occupied West Bank.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Willem Marx
[Copyright 2024 NPR]