US, UK urge Hamas to accept Israeli truce proposal in war on Gaza

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron says the proposal includes a 40-day truce and the release of captives.

Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, Gaza Strip
Palestinians look at the destruction after an Israeli air raid in Rafah, Gaza [Mohammad Jahjouh/AP Photo]

The United States and the United Kingdom have urged Hamas to accept an Israeli proposal for a truce in the Gaza war and the release of some captives held in the besieged territory.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said on Monday that the Israeli proposal delivered to Hamas includes a 40-day truce in the Gaza war and the release of “potentially thousands” of Palestinian prisoners in return for the release of some Israeli captives.

Speaking on Monday at a World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in the capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, Cameron described the offer as “generous”.

“I hope Hamas accepts the proposal in front of them,” he said, stressing that the war would not end until all the captives were released.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the proposal as “extraordinarily generous” and said he hoped Hamas would accept it soon.

“They have to decide – and they have to decide quickly … I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision,” Blinken said.

In comments made to Al Jazeera, senior Hamas spokesperson Osama Hamdan rejected Blinken and Cameron’s framing of the deal as generous.

“Stopping the attacks against Palestinians is not generous. The attack itself is a crime, so when you stop a crime, you can’t claim that it’s a generous action from the Israeli side,” Hamdan said.

Hamdan said Hamas had “serious questions for the mediators” and that it was clear Israel still did not want a “complete ceasefire”.

A woman and children react as they flee following Israeli bombardment in Nuseirat in the central Gaza Strip
A woman and children flee following Israeli bombardment in Nuseirat in central Gaza [AFP]

Egypt, Qatar and the US have been working to mediate an agreement between Israel and Hamas for months, but a flurry of diplomacy in recent days appeared to suggest a new push towards halting nearly seven months of hostilities.

At least 34,488 people have been killed and 77,643 others wounded in the Israeli assault on Gaza since October 7, according to Palestinian authorities in the besieged territory.

Israel launched its war on Gaza after Hamas fighters led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on official Israeli statistics, and taking about 250 others as captives.

Dozens of captives were released by Palestinian groups in Gaza in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a previous weeklong truce in late November.

Hamas delegation to Cairo

The 40-day truce proposal comes as a senior Hamas delegation travels to Egypt for the latest round of negotiations aimed at pausing – if not stopping – Israel’s relentless war on Gaza.

Led by Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, the delegation is expected to hand in the group’s response to the latest proposal.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he hoped that Hamas would accept the proposal [Evelyn Hockstein/Pool via AP Photo]

Hamas has repeatedly said it wants a permanent end to the fighting as part of any deal to release captives.

Meanwhile, hardline Israeli ministers are warning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his government will collapse if a truce is agreed with Hamas in exchange for captives.

Reporting from occupied East Jerusalem, Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith said the Israelis have a delegation ready to go to Cairo on Tuesday, but that depends on the response from Hamas to Israel’s truce proposal.

“It’s understood that the Israelis are asking for fewer than 40 of the 130 or so captives being held by Hamas, and in return for that, they’ll release Palestinian prisoners, and they’ll move to a second phase of a truce, which will offer this period of sustained calm,” he said.

Smith noted that Hamas has insisted in previous rounds of talks that it wants to secure a complete end to hostilities and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

“So the question is whether this offer of a period of ‘sustained calm’ will be enough for Hamas, considering they’ve been asking for this permanent ceasefire,” Smith said.

Israel’s war on Gaza has driven about 80 percent of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in several towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies