Hamas Delivers Response to Israeli Ceasefire Proposal, UNRWA Funding Slashed in Half

Hamas Delivers Response to Israeli Ceasefire Proposal, UNRWA Funding Slashed in Half


What’s Happening

Hamas, Egypt, the US, Israel, and Qatar have all announced that Hamas has delivered a response to Israel on a proposed temporary ceasefire, following the proposition by Israel a week ago. The proposition was curated by joint efforts from the US, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt.

Lebanese Media Company Al-Akhbar has released what they claim to be the text of Hamas’ response, which may be read here. It is worth noting that the response, as of publication of this article, has not been released publicly by the relevant countries involved, or by Hamas. However, the text mirrors descriptions of the counterproposal made by media companies which claim to have seen the text, namely Reuters. The counterproposal proposes three phases of a ceasefire, each to last 45 days. The deal proposed by Hamas would see all remaining Israeli hostages, including the remains of those who have died, released by Hamas. In exchange, Israel would release 1,500 Palestinian prisoners.

The finer details of both the ceasefire and Hamas’ response have not been made public by the nations involved, however Qatar’s Prime Minister, who is also the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al Thani, has stated that he considers the response “positively”. The Foreign Minister met with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on February 6th, and held a joint press conference with him on the matter.

Qatari PM/FM Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, pictured in 2017 (Photo from the US State Department).

“Given the sensitivity of this stage, it is not possible to go into details, but this response gives us optimism, and the response has been delivered to the Israeli side” -FM Al-Thani

Antony Blinken, however, gave no real distinction as to if Hamas’ response was going to be accepted or not. He is headed on February 7th to Israel in order to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the response from Hamas. He stated that, although “there’s still a lot of work to be done”, that the US believes that “an agreement is possible, and indeed, essential”.

In slight contrast to the statements from Qatar is US President Joe Biden, who described the Hamas’ response as “a little over the top”. The exact meaning of this is unclear, but possibly hints that Israel and the US are a little reluctant on some of the conditions put forward by Hamas.

As stated, the finer details of the initial proposed ceasefire deal are unknown. However, it is known that the proposed ceasefire would last six weeks, and would see more hostage releases from Hamas. Pressure is growing on Israel to secure the hostages release, with Israel having stated that 31 of the 136 remaining hostages in Gaza having been killed over the course of the war. Hamas has accused Israel of killing the majority of them through its extensive bombing campaign.

A photo of damaged and destroyed buildings within Gaza on October 10th, 2023 (Photo from Fatima Shbair/AP).

Desperate Need

The potential ceasefire comes as Gaza’s reported fatalities are steadily approaching 30,000, having reached 27,585 as of February 6th. It also comes as several countries have halted funding to the UNRWA, the UN organization which presently heads the vast majority of humanitarian operations within Gaza. The UNRWA also handles humanitarian operations in the West Bank.

The suspension of aid to the UNRWA comes as the UN investigates allegations that some UNRWA staff members were involved in the initial Hamas attack on Israel on October 7th. 16 countries have thus far halted aid to the UNRWA, who had contributed 546 million of the UNRWA’s 1.16 billion annual budget. The US and Germany, the UNRWA’s top two contributors, are among those who halted aid to the UNRWA.

The UN has terminated contracts with the employees who have been accused, however Israel has thus far refused to share its claimed evidence of the accusations with the UN, causing difficulties with the UN’s investigation. The resumption of aid to the UNRWA is dependent on the investigation proceeding. The accused are approximately 190 of the UNRWA’s 13,000 employees operating within Gaza.

“I don’t think we need to give intelligence information. This would reveal sources in the operation. We gave information to UNRWA about employees that worked for UNRWA that are members of Hamas. They think that we can give them intelligence information, knowing that some of their employees work for Hamas? Are you serious? Why don’t we invite Hamas to our headquarters and have them sit at our desk and have a look at all the information we have?” -Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lior Haiat

Marta Lorenzo, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office for Europe, has estimated that funding for the UNRWA will run out by the end of February, which is likely to cause a complete collapse of the humanitarian situation within Gaza, which was already hanging on by a thread.

Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the UN, has called for nations to resume funding to the UNRWA.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (Photo from UNFICYP).

As stated, the donor nations which have halted funding will not resume funding until the investigation concludes. And though the UN has stated they are attempting to perform it quickly, the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), who is in charge of the investigation, has said it could take between 6-12 months.

Following a likely collapse of the UNRWA’s efforts in Gaza if funding does not resume, it is unclear who, if anyone, will take up the mantle for providing aid services in Gaza.

The ceasefire proposal was released a few days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on provisional measures sought by South Africa against Israel for what South Africa says is genocide being carried out in Gaza. The provisional measures ordered by the ICJ fell short of ordering a ceasefire, however ordered Israel to take action to prevent genocide from occurring in Gaza, and to facilitate expanded humanitarian aid into Gaza. Given the order to expand aid, it is possible Israel would have to take over managing aid itself if the UNRWA collapses. It is unclear if they would choose to do so, if the need arises.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.
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