20231122 ceasefire
Families and friends of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel . Image Credit: AP file

CAIRO: Militant group Hamas on Monday agreed to a ceasefire proposal in the seven-month-old war with Israel in Gaza, hours after the Israeli military told residents to evacuate some parts of Rafah, which has been sheltering more than a million displaced people.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators that the group accepted their ceasefire proposal, according to a brief statement from Hamas, which gave no details of the accord.

Israel to send delegation to mediators to discuss 'Hamas proposal'
Israel's government said Monday it will send a delegation to mediators to discuss a Gaza truce proposal accepted by Hamas, which it called "far from Israel's demands".
"Even though the Hamas proposal is far from Israel's essential demands, Israel will send a working-level delegation to the mediators," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said in a statement after a war cabinet meeting.
"The war cabinet has unanimously decided that Israel is continuing the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas in order to advance the release of our hostages and the other objectives of the war," the statement also said.

The Islamist faction said in a statement that its chief, Ismail Haniyeh, had informed Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s intelligence chief of its acceptance of their proposal.

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"Ismail Haniyeh, head of the political bureau of Hamas movement, conducted a telephone call with the prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, and with the Egyptian intelligence minister, Mr Abbas Kamel, and informed them of Hamas's approval of their proposal regarding a ceasefire agreement," the group said in a statement published on its official website.

White House reviews Hamas response to Gaza ceasefire proposal
The White House on Monday said it was reviewing a response by the Hamas group to a ceasefire and hostage release proposal, as it continued to press Israel to halt plans for a ground invasion of Rafah.
CIA Director Williams Burns was in the region having discussions on the proposal, White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. He declined to provide any details, saying he did not want to jeopardize any progress toward a deal.
"We want to get these hostages out, we want to get a ceasefire in place for six weeks, we want to increase humanitarian assistance," Kirby said, adding that reaching an agreement would be the "absolute best outcome."

A senior Hamas official said that Israel must decide whether it accepts or “obstructs” the truce.

“After Hamas agreed to the mediators’ proposal for a ceasefire, the ball is now in the court of Israeli occupation, whether it will agree to the ceasefire agreement or obstruct it,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak publicly about the negotiations.

There were no immediate details over what the agreement entailed.

An unnamed Israeli official quoted by the Reuters news agency said Hamas has approved a “softened” Egyptian proposal that is not acceptable to Israel. The proposal included “far-reaching” conclusions that Israel will not support, the official said.

“This would appear to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal,” said the Israeli official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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The agreement, should it take effect, would be the first truce since a week-long pause in the fighting in November, and follows months of failed attempts at pausing the fighting to free hostages and allow more aid into Gaza.

Celebrations in Rafah

As the news broke, crowds cheered and fired in the air in the streets of Rafah. People were crying tears of happiness, chanting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”) and shooting in the air in celebration of the news, An AFP correspondent said.

There had been concerns that the ceasefire talks being held in Cairo had stalled after Hamas official Izzat Al Rashiq warned that any Israeli operation in Rafah would put the truce talks in jeopardy.

The city, on the southern edge of the Gaza Strip, has been the last sanctuary for around half of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents, pushed south by Israel’s seven-month-old assault.

Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for weeks through mediators toward a potential truce that would include the release of hostages held in Gaza and of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.