“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” Mr. Blinken said.
The Hamas reply came as something of a surprise to Mr. Blinken and the White House, who had little time to review it before being asked publicly about it. Qatari officials received the Hamas proposal just an hour before Mr. Blinken arrived for his first meeting in Doha, and about three hours before his joint news conference, said a senior U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Mr. Blinken’s team quickly reviewed it and then briefed White House officials.
Mr. Biden told reporters in Washington that there had been “some movement” in the talks and that Hamas’s proposal “seems to be a little over the top.”
“There’s continuing negotiation right now,” he said.
In a statement, Hamas said it had dealt with the framework proposed by intermediaries “positively.” It did not elaborate, but reaffirmed its prior demands, including a permanent cease-fire, the reconstruction of Gaza, the end of Israel’s blockade of the territory and the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
An Israeli official who was briefed on the matter suggested that Israel was dissatisfied with Hamas’s answer. The official, who was not authorized to address the issue publicly and so spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Hamas wanted a deal only if it ensured its continued control of Gaza and ended the war — both conditions rejected by Israel.
Israel’s spy agency, the Mossad, said in a statement that it had received the Hamas reply from Qatar, “and its details are being examined in depth by all officials engaged in the negotiations.”
Egypt and Qatar have been key intermediataries, negotiating with the leaders of Hamas on a proposal backed by the United States that could temporarily stop the war that has devastated Gaza, free the remaining hostages there in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails and allow more food, water, medicine and other basic supplies into the territory.