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Israel and Hamas statements don’t reflect reality on Gaza peace talks – White House

Public remarks do not fully correspond to discussions taking place in private, a US official has insisted

The White House has urged the public not to read too much into statements by Israel and Palestinian armed group Hamas regarding negotiations on a ceasefire in Gaza.

The discussions happening behind closed doors with mediation by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, are more significant than public declarations by the two warring sides, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby insisted on Monday.

“On both sides, you see public comments that are not necessarily fully reflective of the conversations that we are having privately with them or their interlocutors,” Kirby told journalists during a briefing.

On Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a list of what he said were non-negotiable demands as part of the talks. One of them was that any ceasefire deal in Gaza should allow Israel to resume fighting until all of its war objectives are met. Throughout the conflict, the Israeli leader has repeatedly stated that he is seeking the complete destruction of Hamas.

The Palestinian armed group responded by saying that Netanyahu “continues to place more obstacles in front of the talks,” thus jeopardizing a successful outcome. Hamas also warned that continued Israeli attacks on Gaza risk returning “the negotiating process to point zero.” 

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Gaza deal must allow Israel to keep fighting – Netanyahu

Speaking about the public exchanges between Israel and Hamas on Monday, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller stressed that the belief in Washington is that “it is most productive to have these conversations in private, not in public.” 

“Sometimes, [you have] seen the Israeli government make public statements. Sometimes you’ve seen Hamas make public statements. We’re going to hold the negotiations in private,” he said.

According to Miller, Israeli officials have assured their US counterparts that they remain committed to Washington’s three-phase proposal to settle the conflict in Gaza.

Reuters reported last week that Hamas has agreed to drop its key demand for Israel to first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing the deal. The Palestinian group expects to end hostilities through talks during the first six-week phase of the agreement, according to the agency.

Israel began its operation in Gaza in response to a cross-border incursion by Hamas last October in which at least 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage. Some 116 captives are believed to still be in Gaza.


READ MORE: Gaza death toll could be five times higher – study

At least 38,000 people have been killed so far and almost 88,000 others have been wounded in Israel’s airstrikes and ground offensive in the Palestinian enclave, according to Gaza’s health ministry. A study published in The Lancet medical journal last week suggested that the actual death toll could be five times higher, exceeding 186,000 people.

 

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