White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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White House: Qatar and Egypt Plan Talks with Hamas on Gaza Ceasefire

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, May 22, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said on Saturday that mediators for Qatar and Egypt plan to engage Hamas militants soon to see if there is a way to push ahead with a Gaza ceasefire proposal offered by US President Joe Biden.

Sullivan spoke to reporters on the sidelines of a Ukraine peace summit and was asked about diplomatic efforts to get an agreement for Hamas to release some hostages held since Oct. 7 in exchange for a ceasefire lasting at least six weeks.

Sullivan said he had spoken briefly to one of the main interlocutors, Qatar's Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and that they would speak again about Gaza on Sunday while both are in Switzerland for the Ukraine conference, Reuters reported.

Hamas has welcomed the ceasefire proposal, but insists any agreement must secure an end to the war, a demand Israel still rejects. Israel described Hamas's response to the new US peace proposal as total rejection.

Sullivan said that US officials have taken a close look at Hamas's response.

"We think some of the edits are not unexpected and can be managed. Some of them are inconsistent both with what President Biden laid out and what the UN Security Council endorsed. And we are having to deal with that reality," he said.

He said US officials believe there remains an avenue to an agreement and that the next step will be for Qatari and Egyptian mediators to talk to Hamas and "go through what can be worked with and what really can’t be worked with."

"We anticipate a back-and-forth between the mediators and Hamas. We’ll see where we stand at that point. We will keep consulting with the Israelis and then hopefully at some point next week we’ll be able to report to you where we think things stand and what we see as being the next step to try to bring this to closure," he said.



Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)

The UN's top court, in a sweeping opinion on Friday, said that Israel's decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory was "illegal" and needed to end as soon as possible.

The advisory opinion by The Hague-based International Court of Justice was immediately slammed as a "decision of lies" by Israel, but welcomed by the Palestinian presidency, which called it "historic".

The ICJ's statement, called an "advisory opinion", is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel's war against Hamas sparked by the group's brutal October 7 attacks.

It is also likely to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel, whose lawmakers on Thursday voted to oppose a Palestinian state, calling it an "existential threat".

In The Hague, ICJ presiding judge Nawaf Salam said: "The court has found... that Israel's continued presence in the Palestinian Territories is illegal."

Israel is "under the obligation to bring to an end its unlawful presence as rapidly as possible," the judge said in its finding, read at the Peace Palace, seat of the ICJ.

The ICJ added that Israel was "under an obligation to cease immediately all new settlement activities and to evacuate all settlers" from occupied land.

Israel's policies and practices, including the maintenance of a wall between the territories, "amount to annexation of large parts" of the occupied territory, the court said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the ICJ's opinion as a "decision of lies".

"The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land -- not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria" (the occupied West Bank), Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki called it a "watershed moment".

A separate, high-profile case that South Africa has brought before the court alleges that Israel has committed genocidal acts during its Gaza offensive.

South Africa, in a statement, called upon the international community "to bring an immediate end to the occupation and the gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people".

- 'Extreme danger' -

In late 2022, the UN's General Assembly asked the ICJ to give an "advisory opinion" on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following the request -- supported by most countries within the Assembly.

During the hearings, most speakers called on Israel to end its 57-year occupation. They warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.

Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.

- 'Ongoing violation' -

The General Assembly asked the ICJ to consider two questions.

Firstly, the court should examine the legal consequences of what the UN called "the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination".

In its answer, the ICJ's judges said Israel's "unlawful policies and practices are in breach" of its "obligation to respect the rights of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination".

In June 1967, Israel defeated some of its Arab neighbors in a six-day war, seizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, at the time annexed by Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Israel then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of seized Arab territory.

The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal, and Cairo regained Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

- 'Restrictions' -

The ICJ also was asked to look into the consequences of what it described as Israel's "adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures".

In this finding, the ICJ said a "regime of comprehensive restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians consisted of systemic discrimination based on race, religion or ethnic origin."

The ICJ rules in disputes between states. Normally, its judgements are binding but it has few means to enforce them.

In this case, however, the opinion is non-binding, although most advisory opinions are in fact acted upon.

The ICJ has previously issued advisory opinions on the legality of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and apartheid South Africa's occupation of Namibia.

It also handed down an opinion in 2004 declaring that parts of the wall erected by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory were illegal and should be torn down.

Israel has not complied with that ICJ ruling.