Hamas considers Gaza truce proposal endorsed by Israel
Leaders of the militant group, one of whom is in Cairo for talks, are weighing a proposal for a longer-term truce that has Israeli support
Hamas officials said on Friday that the group was studying a proposed cease-fire deal that would include prolonged pauses in fighting in Gaza and swaps of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
However, the group also appeared to rule out some key components of the proposal.
Hamas' top political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, has been in Cairo for the past two days to evaluate the offer.
Haniyeh said in a statement on Friday that negotiations must "completely end" Israeli military operations in Gaza and bring about the withdrawal of Israeli forces — terms Israel has rejected.
Another leading Hamas official based in Beirut, Osama Hamdan, said the group, recognized by the US, Germany and many other governments as a terrorist organization, would also demand the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners being held for acts related to the conflict with Israel.
The current proposal, although not made public in full, is thought to contain conditions for small-scale prisoner releases, contingent on hostages being freed.
It's not clear when or if Hamas will give a clearer answer on the proposal or make a counterproposal.
US says Algerian Security Council cease-fire resolution jeopardizes truce talks
Meanwhile, the US said Friday that an Algerian draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza could jeopardize the talks on a possible halt in fighting.
"This draft resolution could put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy — derailing the exhaustive, ongoing diplomatic efforts to secure the release of hostages, and secure an extended pause that Palestinian civilians and aid workers so desperately need," Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told reporters.
News emerged this week that Algeria submitted the draft resolution to the Security Council on Wednesday. Whether it will come to a vote or a debate is not clear; it already appears unlikely that it would pass, given the need to avoid a US veto.
"If accepted and implemented, this proposal would move all parties one step closer to creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities," said Thomas-Greenfield.
She argued it was the Security Council's "obligation to ensure that any action we take in the coming days increases pressure on Hamas to accept this proposal."
Western foreign ministers still trying to mediate
The latest push for a period of reduced fighting, after the collapse of a one-week truce punctuated by prisoner swaps last November, coincides with continued intensive diplomatic efforts in the region.
British Foreign Secretary David Cameron was in Beirut on Friday, where he seemed to encourage Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to engage on the question of a future Palestinian state.
Cameron said in an interview aired by Lebanese broadcaster LBCI that despite some of his recent comments, Netanyahu had "not ruled out comprehensively a two-state solution."
"My message to him was start talking about the things that a Palestinian state could be rather than the things it can't be," said Cameron.
He also said there would come a time when British policy would look to recognize a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations.
"That can't be at the start of the process," said Cameron. "The process needs to get going. But it doesn't have to be at the end of the process."
French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne is also expected in the region on Saturday, first in Israel. And US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will again tour the region from February 4 to 8.
Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and took more than 200 others hostage during terror attacks on Israel on October 7. Israel has responded with an offensive in Gaza that the Hamas-run Health Ministry says has killed 27,131 people to date.
Meanwhile, the ministry, which does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties, said on Friday that 112 people had died in the previous 24 hours.