US State Department says Hamas demands over Temple Mount are an ‘obvious nonstarter’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Palestinians attend Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrations by the Dome of the Rock shrine in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)
Palestinians attend Eid al-Fitr holiday celebrations by the Dome of the Rock shrine in the Al Aqsa Mosque compound on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, April 21, 2023. (AP Photo/ Mahmoud Illean)

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says Hamas’s demand for limitations of Israel’s sovereignty at the Temple Mount in the context of ongoing hostage negotiations was an “obvious non-starter.”

The demand was one of several Hamas made in the response it issued earlier this month to a hostage deal framework crafted by Qatari, Egyptian and American mediators. US President Joe Biden said some of Hamas’s demands were “over the top,” but this appears to be the first time that a US official specifies Washington’s issues with Hamas’s response.

“You saw a number of issues that were obvious non-starters, for example, the status of Al-Aqsa is not going to be resolved in negotiation of hostages,” Miller says during a press briefing.

He also notes that the Israeli government has taken steps to ensure that aid is delivered through the Kerem Shalom crossing by declaring the surrounding area a closed military zone to prevent access to far-right protesters seeking to block the assistance from reaching Gaza. Miller says the IDF has also moved its troops into the crossing to ensure that the aid is delivered, even though the protesters have still frequently managed to thwart the shipments.

“We think it is extremely unfortunate the times that the crossing has been blocked. We engage with the Israeli government and have made clear that the position of the United States is that the crossing ought to remain open and that they take whatever steps they can to make sure that it remains open,” Miller says.

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