Hamas rejects ceasefire proposal, dashing Biden’s hopes for near-term deal

Hamas rejects ceasefire proposal, dashing Biden’s hopes for near-term deal

That pressure led Israel to make significant concessions in negotiations, two officials said, including offering to release 15 Palestinians imprisoned on serious terrorism charges in exchange for the detention of five female Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

The offer was part of a broader proposal to exchange dozens of Palestinian prisoners and detainees for about 35 other hostages during a roughly six-week ceasefire, the officials said.

Hamas’ political leaders have insisted, at least publicly, that any deal to free more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza depends on a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops. Israel has said it will not compromise on its goal of toppling Hamas in Gaza, suggesting it would not agree to a long-term truce.

At a news conference in Washington on Tuesday, Matthew Miller, a State Department spokesman, said negotiators “made significant progress” last week and continued to push for an agreement between Israel and Hamas.

“We’re trying to move this deal through to the end,” Mr. Miller said. “We think it’s possible.”

But he added: “Ultimately, it depends in part on Hamas and Hamas’ willingness to accept a deal that would bring significant benefits to the Palestinian people they claim to represent.” »

In the absence of an agreement, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society said it had suspended its emergency medical missions for two days in a part of Gaza where Israeli forces intercepted a convoy evacuating patients from a hospital on Sunday, questioning and arresting workers suspected of transporting Hamas fighters.

Red Crescent and UN officials said they had approved evacuation arrangements with Israeli authorities. Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the U.N. aid office in Geneva, said Tuesday that Israel knew the details of the route, the vehicles and the identities of the people traveling in the convoy.

But after the convoy left Al-Amal hospital in the southern city of Khan Younis, carrying 24 patients requiring surgery, it was stopped by Israeli forces.

Soldiers ordered patients and aid workers out of vehicles, forced paramedics to strip and held the convoy for seven hours, U.N. officials said. One of those arrested was released a few hours later, the Red Crescent said.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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