Hamas says it accepts UN cease-fire resolution, but Blinken an obstacle to negotiations

A senior Hamas official has said the terrorist group accepts a U.N. Security Council cease-fire resolution adopted on Monday that would bring a truce to fighting in Gaza. 

Sami Abu Zuhri confirmed the militant group’s decision to Reuters on Tuesday, saying Hamas is ready to negotiate over the details, adding that it was up to Washington to ensure that Israel abides by it.

“The U.S. administration is facing a real test to carry out its commitments in compelling the occupation to immediately end the war in an implementation of the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Abu Zuhri told the publication.

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Osama Hamdan, another senior Hamas leader, echoed calls for a permanent cease-fire and said the group is ready for a fair prisoner exchange deal, but he said the U.N. resolution has flaws and that Secretary of State Antony Blinken “is one of the obstacles to reaching an agreement because he acts solely according to ‘Israel’s’ wishes.”

“The resolution contains points we do not accept, but its main aspects are positive,” Hamdan said. “The Security Council resolution will not take effect on the ground unless the occupation agrees to it.”

“The problem in the entire situation is the American stance and Blinken needs to be more precise. All disruptions were carried out by ‘Israel’ with American approval. Attempts to pressure mediators will not succeed in changing Hamas’ stance.”

The U.S.-sponsored resolution calls on Hamas to accept the three-phase plan to end the eight-month-old Israeli air and ground war against Hamas that has devastated Gaza,

The resolution was approved with 14 of the 15 Security Council members voting in favor and Russia abstaining, although details about the exact nature of the plan are not clear.

Blinken was in Israel on Monday, where he urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the plan for postwar Gaza as he pushed for more international pressure on Hamas to agree to the cease-fire proposal. Netanyahu has been skeptical of the deal, saying that Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas.

In proposing the resolution on May 31, President Biden said the agreement would begin with an initial six-week cease-fire and the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza and the return of Palestinian civilians to all areas in the territory.

Phase two would see “a permanent end to hostilities, in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.” 

Phase three would launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.”

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Blinken said at a press briefing in Tel Aviv Tuesday morning that it was “quite rare” for the U.N. Security Council to have such strong support in a proposal. When pressed by reporters, Blinken said Netanyahu would support a cease-fire if it is accepted by Hamas. 

“It is on Hamas to move forward with this proposal or not,” said Blinken, who also met with the families of some of the American hostages. “And it’s very clear what virtually the entire international community wants to see and of course, what so many families want to see, and it’s also what the people of Gaza so desperately need.”

“We have the prospect of an immediate cease-fire building toward an enduring one and tremendous relief for people in Gaza, but also opening prospects for Israel to build enduring security, which is what this country needs and has wanted from day one of its existence,” Blinken continued. 

“Integration in the region with its neighbors. Being able also to make sure that people who have been forced from their homes in the north can return home. Building a future that provides the kind of enduring security that Israel has not enjoyed. This proposal and moving forward on it is the first step down that path and in that direction. So we want to see it come to fruition.”

Blinken also said there has to be a clear political and humanitarian plan to ensure that Hamas does not regain control of Gaza, and that Israel can move forward toward more enduring security.

He said the plan would have to start with an immediate cease-fire and then negotiations would take place for an enduring one. 

“The cease-fire that would take place immediately would remain in place, which is manifestly good for everyone, and then we’ll have to see,” Blinken said. “But you’re not going to get to phase two, an enduring cease-fire, unless you start with phase one. So that’s where it begins.”

He said news that Hamas would agree to the plan is a “hopeful sign” but it’s not official yet from Hamas leadership.

“Everyone has said yes, except for Hamas. And if Hamas doesn’t say yes, then this is clearly on them,” Blinken said. 

“On them in terms of a vote to continue the war in terms of the safety and well-being of hundreds of thousands, millions, of Palestinian women, children and men in Gaza. On them in terms of the safety, stability, security of Israel as well as the region as a whole.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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