Hamas and Islamic Jihad respond to Joe Biden’s Gaza peace plan

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Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Tuesday gave their response to the plan set out by US President Joe Biden this month to end the eight-month old war in Gaza.

In a statement the two groups expressed “readiness to deal positively” to reach an agreement and said their response “prioritises the interest of our Palestinian people”, the necessity of “completely” ending the war, and “withdrawing [Israeli forces] from the entire Gaza Strip”.

However, they did not provide details, and an official with knowledge of the talks said the response contained “amendments” to the Israeli proposal, including a timeline for a permanent ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The official said Hamas’s response was “neither a yes nor a no”, and added that the group was seeking assurances about a permanent ceasefire — which has been a sticking point between the two sides — adding that talks would continue via mediators to see if a deal could be reached.

Qatar and Egypt, which along with the US have been central to the efforts to broker a deal, confirmed they had received a response from the Palestinian factions and would continue their mediation efforts “until an agreement is reached”.

John Kirby, US National Security Council spokesperson, confirmed that the White House had also received Hamas’s reply, and was “evaluating it right now”.

The response comes two weeks after Biden set out a three-stage plan for ending the war, which has become the deadliest in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and fuelled a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

During a visit to Israel on Tuesday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken told journalists that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also “reaffirmed his commitment” to the plan, which Biden presented as an Israeli proposal when it was unveiled.

Although Israeli officials have admitted the proposal was accepted by the war cabinet, which has directed the country’s campaign in Gaza, the plan has sparked a backlash from far-right factions in the government, with two ultranationalist parties threatening to topple Netanyahu if he accepts it.

Earlier on Tuesday, an Israeli official reiterated that the country would not end the war until it had achieved all of its goals, which include the destruction of Hamas and the return of all hostages seized by the militant group in its October 7 attack, which triggered the conflict.

But the official added that “the outline that was presented allows Israel to meet these conditions and it will indeed do so”.

The plan set out by Biden, and endorsed on Monday by the UN Security Council with 14 countries voting in favour and only Russia abstaining, envisages a three-step approach to ending the conflict.

In the first stage, there would be an “immediate, full, and complete ceasefire”, during which some Israeli hostages would be freed in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails; Israeli forces would withdraw from the populated areas of Gaza; and there would be an influx of aid.

The second phase would lead “upon agreement of the parties” to a “permanent end to hostilities”, the return of all the remaining hostages, and the “full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza”. The final stage would involve a multiyear reconstruction effort.

Additional reporting by James Politi

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