Hamas officials said seeking 'detailed proposal in writing'

Egypt says Hamas views hostage-truce proposal ‘positively,’ awaits Israeli response

Foreign Minister Shoukry repeats Cairo’s rejection of Israeli control of Rafah border crossing; Israeli official tells NBC that Biden’s description of proposal is ‘not accurate’

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Passersby observe the photos of hostages held in the Gaza Strip that are plastered to the walls of a plaza known as Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2024 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty).
Passersby observe the photos of hostages held in the Gaza Strip that are plastered to the walls of a plaza known as Hostages Square in Tel Aviv, Israel, May 17, 2024 (AP Photo/Oded Balilty).

Hamas welcomes the proposal for a hostage deal put forth by US President Joe Biden over the weekend, Egypt’s foreign minister said in Spain on Monday.

“Hamas’s initial statements indicate that it received the proposal positively,” said Sameh Shoukry at a press conference with Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares.

Shoukry seemed to be referring to a Hamas response to Biden’s Friday speech in which it said it views the address positively and would negotiate in good faith to secure a permanent ceasefire and the permanent withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

Shoukry added that “we are now awaiting Israel’s response.”

The Wall Street Journal on Monday cited Hamas officials, however, as saying they were seeking a “detailed proposal in writing” outlining Biden’s proposed deal, amid concerns that Israel would not commit to a long-term ceasefire.

Citing messages purportedly sent by Hamas chief in Gaza Yahya Sinwar to Arab mediators, the news outlet reported that Sinwar — unlike Hamas leaders abroad — is not seeking an end to the war anytime soon, since he believes the longer fighting drags on, the more Israel is being turned into “an international pariah” while support for Palestinians grows.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a press conference after a meeting with his Greek counterpart in Athens on May 20, 2024. (Photo by Aris MESSINIS / AFP)

Biden announced what he described as an Israeli proposal for a deal in his speech, triggering shockwaves in the Israeli government, where far-right parties threatened to bring down the coalition if Netanyahu tried to see it approved.

In his address, Biden revealed that the ostensibly new Israeli proposal for a ceasefire and hostage deal had been submitted on Thursday to Hamas via Qatar. The US president laid out some of the proposal’s key elements in some detail and urged Hamas to accept it and the Israeli government to “stand behind it.”

However, on Monday a senior Israeli official called into question Biden’s characterization of the deal, stressing to NBC News that Israel had never agreed to fully withdraw its forces from Gaza in a deal.

The US president’s description was “not accurate,” said the official.

The official said the proposal announced by Biden wasn’t an Israeli proposal but rather one originating with the mediating countries, to which Israel made amendments.

“It’s strange that they say it’s an Israeli proposal and at the same time that Israel needs to agree to it,” the official said.

The comments came a day after a senior adviser to Netanyahu confirmed that while there is still work that needs to be done on the hostage release deal presented by, Israel has agreed to the framework.

Shoukry also reiterated Egypt’s rejection of Israeli control of the Rafah Border Crossing.

“It is difficult for the Rafah Crossing to continue operating without a Palestinian administration,” said Egypt’s top diplomat.

Israeli forces operating on the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 7, 2024. (Israel Defense Forces/AFP)

On Sunday, Egypt expressed the same stance in a trilateral meeting with Israeli and American officials, according to the Egyptian al Qahera TV channel.

Last week the IDF said it had discovered many cross-border tunnels and rocket launchers positioned by Hamas just along the border with Egypt.

The IDF took control of the Gazan side of the crossing from Hamas in early May, and since then Egypt has refused to allow goods to cross through the terminal, although it has now agreed to send aid via Israel’s Kerem Shalom Crossing.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the Middle East, from the State Dining Room of the White House, May 31, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Egypt is co-hosting, along with Jordan and the United Nations, an emergency international Gaza humanitarian aid conference on June 11 on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan.

Israel will not be participating, an Israeli official told The Times of Israel.

On Sunday night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and war cabinet minister Benny Gantz to discuss the latest hostage deal proposal.

In his call with Gallant, Blinken “commended Israel’s readiness to conclude a deal and affirmed that the onus is on Hamas to accept,” the State Department said in a readout of the conversation.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a joint press conference with Moldova’s President Maia Sandu at the Moldovan Presidency in Chisinau, Moldova, Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda, Pool)

The top US diplomat also told Gantz that in addition to bringing about the release of the hostages, implementing the deal “would advance Israel’s long-term security interests, including by unlocking the possibility of calm along Israel’s border with Lebanon that would allow Israelis to return to their homes.”

The conversations were the first publicized calls between senior US and Israeli officials since Biden’s Friday night speech.

In a statement released by his office on Monday morning, Gallant confirmed that he had “emphasized Israel’s commitment to dismantling Hamas as a governing and military authority.”

The deal, Biden said on Friday, would “bring all the hostages home, ensure Israel’s security, create a better day after in Gaza without Hamas in power, and set the stage for a political settlement that provides a better future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

Protesters attend a rally calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza since October 7, outside the Defense Ministry Headquarters in Tel Aviv, June 1, 2024. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

Israeli leaders asserted after Biden’s address that the war will continue until Hamas has been destroyed, and large sections of the Israeli government have criticized Biden for failing to provide clarity as to how that would be achieved.

Although the US president stressed that the deal would remove the terror group from power, and said that it was “no longer capable of carrying out another October 7,” the publicized parts of the offer did not specify how Hamas would be replaced as Gaza’s ruler.

The issue was discussed by the war cabinet when it convened on Sunday night.

According to Hebrew media reports, Gallant presented the cabinet with a plan for “humanitarian bubbles” to be formed inside the Palestinian enclave, in which Palestinians proven to have no affiliation to Hamas or other terror groups will be responsible for overseeing the distribution of humanitarian aid inside specific neighborhoods.

Jacob Magid and Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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