Senior Hamas leader says proposed amendments to Gaza ceasefire ‘not significant’

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DOHA (Reuters) -The changes that Hamas has requested to a ceasefire proposal by the United States are “not significant” and include the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip, a senior leader in the group told Reuters on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that Hamas had proposed numerous changes, some unworkable, to the U.S.-backed proposal, but that mediators were determined to close the gaps.

The U.S. has said Israel has accepted its proposal, but Israel has not publicly stated that. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said Israel will not commit to ending its campaign before Hamas is eliminated.

The senior Hamas leader said his organisation had demanded to choose a list of 100 Palestinians with long sentences to be released from Israeli jails.

The Israeli document had excluded 100 prisoners with long sentences and restricted releases to only prisoners with sentences of less than 15 years remaining, the Hamas official said.

“There are no significant amendments that, according to Hamas leadership, warrant objection,” said the Hamas leader.

The group’s demands also include the reconstruction of Gaza; the lifting of the blockade, including opening border crossings; allowing the movement of people; and transporting goods without restrictions,” the senior Hamas leader said.

Negotiators from the U.S., Egypt and Qatar have tried for months to mediate a ceasefire in the conflict – which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians and devastated the heavily populated enclave – and free the hostages, more than 100 of whom are believed to remain captive in Gaza.

Major powers are intensifying efforts to defuse the conflict in part to prevent it spiralling into a wider Middle East war, with a dangerous flashpoint being the escalating hostilities along the Lebanese-Israeli border.

The fighting in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when militants led by Hamas burst across the border and killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s air and ground war since then has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, displaced most of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million and devastated housing and infrastructure.

(Writing by Nadine Awadalla and Maha El Dahan; Editing by Himani Sarkar, Michael Georgy, Bernadette Baum and Gerry Doyle)

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