Hamas has answered a proposal that could halt fighting in the Gaza Strip, release the remaining hostages there and allow more aid to reach desperate Palestinians, U.S. and Qatari leaders said on Tuesday, offering a hint of wary optimism after four brutal months of war.
But no deal has been struck, and it is not clear how Israel will respond to Hamas’s counterproposal. And as negotiations continued, Palestinians who have fled into tents and shelters in Rafah, on Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, said they were wondering if they should flee again after Israel suggested that it could send ground troops into the city to root out Hamas militants.
At a news conference in Doha with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, said that negotiators had received a response from Hamas, the armed group at war with Israel in Gaza. “The reply includes some comments, but in general it is positive,” he said.
He declined to offer further details, but said the counteroffer had been delivered to Israeli officials. “We are optimistic,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
Mr. Blinken, on the second day of a trip to the Middle East aimed at de-escalating regional tensions, also met with Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, and with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, in Cairo. Mr. Blinken said that he planned to discuss Hamas’s response with Israeli leaders on Wednesday.
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