US Says Gaza Cease-Fire Signs Are ‘More Positive’ Than in Months

(Bloomberg) -- National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said negotiators have made progress toward an Israel-Hamas cease-fire, but tamped down hopes of a deal anytime soon.

“The signs are more positive today than they have been in recent months,” Sullivan said, while adding that “there’s still miles to go before we close — if we are able to close.” 

“I don’t want to say that it’s immediately around the corner, but it does not have to be far out in the distance,” he said in a briefing.

Sullivan said US officials were in the region working through details of a deal. Last week, a person familiar with the matter said Hamas had dropped its objections over the US-backed cease-fire proposal to halt the Gaza conflict. Earlier Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said a delegation was headed back to the region. 

President Joe Biden put forward the proposal in late May, describing a three-phase approach that would lead to a permanent end to the conflict. He said it had Israel’s full support — something that Israeli officials backed away from at the time. Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and the UK, has agreed to move beyond earlier sticking points, the person said, without providing details.

An Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea was in Qatar last week for the talks, and returned home late in the day. Barnea, who leads the Israeli external-intelligence agency, met Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

US officials have said a cease-fire could turn into a permanent halt in fighting. The war has caused turmoil in the wider Middle East and huge political divisions globally, even hurting Biden’s bid for reelection in November. 

US officials have also worked to head off a potential conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, while also seeking to neutralize Houthi forces in Yemen that say they will keep targeting commercial shipping as long as the Gaza conflict continues.

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