White House Evaluating Hamas’s Response to Cease-Fire Deal

“We’ve only just gotten it. Our team is going through it,” said National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby.
White House Evaluating Hamas’s Response to Cease-Fire Deal
Smoke rises in the Palestinian Al Fara'a refugee camp in the West Bank following an Israeli military operation on June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)
Andrew Thornebrooke

The White House is evaluating Hamas’s response to a U.S.-led cease-fire agreement as the Biden administration attempts to broker a lasting peace settlement in the Middle East.

Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group, both of which are designated by the United States as terror organizations, said they were ready to “deal positively to arrive at an agreement” and that their priority is to bring a “complete stop” to the war.

The Biden administration received a copy of Hamas’s response shortly after it was delivered to Egyptian and Qatari officials, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

“We’re in receipt of this reply that Hamas delivered to Qatar and Egypt, and we are evaluating it right now,” Mr. Kirby told reporters during a June 11 call.

The open-ended cease-fire agreement includes several phases that, if agreed upon, would gradually implement prisoner and hostage exchanges, the removal of Israeli forces from Gazan population centers, and an end to Hamas as the political authority in the region.

The United States would act as a guarantor to ensure Israel held up its side of the agreement, while Egypt and Qatar would do the same for Hamas.

The foreign ministries of Qatar and Egypt said in a joint statement earlier in the day that they were examining the response and would continue their mediation efforts “until an agreement is reached.”

“It’s certainly helpful that we have a response,” Mr. Kirby said of Hamas’s reply. “We’ve only just gotten it. Our team is going through it. As I understand, the Qataris and the Egyptians are as well.”

The development closely follows the release of unverified reports first published by the Wall Street Journal that purport to show comments from Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar celebrating the deaths of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians as a “necessary sacrifice” to turn the world against Israel.

While Palestinian health authorities estimate that the war has killed some 37,000 people, those estimates don’t distinguish between civilian and combatant deaths. Israel has banned foreign journalists from entering Gaza unless they are attached to a military expedition, meaning that the only Palestinian casualty estimates available are from Palestinian sources.

For its part, the Israeli military says that 298 Israeli service members have died since the beginning of its invasion of Gaza on Oct. 27, 2023.

Mr. Kirby didn’t confirm the authenticity of the documents attributed to Mr. Sinwar, but he said that their contents appeared characteristic of the terror group’s leader and of Hamas’s methods more broadly.

“It should come as a shock to no one that Mr. Sinwar cares nothing at all about the lives of innocent Palestinians that have been caught up in this war he started,“ he said. ”And it should surprise and shock no one that a beast like Mr. Sinwar would actually take glee in it and see advantage.

“It should underscore and be a reminder to everybody how this war started, how quickly it could end if Mr. Sinwar didn’t have these predilections and would do the right thing, and exactly what Hamas as an organization is still capable of.”

Andrew Thornebrooke is a national security correspondent for The Epoch Times covering China-related issues with a focus on defense, military affairs, and national security. He holds a master's in military history from Norwich University.