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Hamas gave a 'positive' response to a Gaza cease-fire proposal, Qatar says

Palestinians migrate to safer areas due to Israeli attacks that continue in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Jan. 30.
Ahmed Zaqout/Anadolu via Getty Images
Palestinians migrate to safer areas due to Israeli attacks that continue in Khan Younis, Gaza, on Jan. 30.

Updated February 6, 2024 at 5:05 PM ET

Hamas on Tuesday responded to a proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza in return for a hostage release in a "positive" manner, said the Qatari mediator who helped draw up the plan.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who has been a key mediator in the efforts to end Israel's war against Hamas in Gaza, said he was "optimistic" and noted that the Palestinian group's response to the blueprint had included some comments but "in general it is positive."

He was speaking in Doha, Qatar, during a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is on his fifth tour of the region since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered a nearly four-month-long Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 240 hostages back to Gaza, Israeli officials say. Israel's invasion of Gaza has killed more than 27,000 people, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

Blinken, who had visited Saudi Arabia and Egypt earlier on his trip, said he would discuss the Hamas proposal with the Israeli leadership when he flew to Israel later in the day. Israeli officials said they were studying the proposal.

Hamas released its own statement, saying it had received it in a "positive spirit" but still insisting on a permanent cease-fire and a withdrawal of Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip, which Israel has so far rejected. Instead, Israel says it wants a temporary truce in return for the release of around 130 hostages still being held in Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously said his forces would fight on until they achieved "total victory" over Hamas.

Blinken admitted "there's still a lot of work to be done" but said in his talks in Saudi Arabia that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said his country was ready to normalize ties with Israel if there is peace in Gaza.

President Biden acknowledged Hamas' reaction to the proposal saying, "There's some movement, there has been a response from ... Hamas," according to The Associated Press. "But it seems to be a little over the top. We're not sure where it is. There's continuing negotiations."

Last week, a senior Hamas official told Reuters the proposal involved a three-stage cease-fire, with Hamas releasing the remaining civilian hostages in the first stage, then captured soldiers in the second and finally the bodies of dead hostages.

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

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James Hider