Photos of the hostages
Photos of the hostagesMiriam Alster/FLASH90

The New York Times has confirmed that on Monday night, the Hamas terror group proposed a counteroffer for a ceasefire-prisoner swap deal, and did not "agree" to the deal approved by both Israel and the US.

Nevertheless, the counteroffer - though not deemed acceptable - was seen by the US as a sign of progress.

The New York Times stressed that Israel's strikes in Rafah were "retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks that killed four Israeli soldiers," and a way to pressure Hamas, but did not constitute the strike that US President Joe Biden was warning against.

Biden is still insisting to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that a ground invasion on Rafah "is a terrible idea," Mara Rudman, a former deputy Middle East special envoy under President Barack Obama who is now at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, told the Times. She claimed that Biden is also "pressuring Hamas in every way possible to get hostages out and more humanitarian aid in."

According to the Times, the proposal would see Israel cease its attacks on Hamas for a full 42 days, and release hundreds of convicted terrorists, while Hamas would release 33 women, ailing, and children. Hamas had promised to release all civilian women and children under the November 2023 deal, but failed to keep its commitment.

The NYT also noted that Israel originally demanded 40 living hostages, while Hamas offered just 18. Israel later agreed to lower the number from 40 to 33 after understanding that no more than 33 living hostages met the criteria under discussion. On Monday, Hamas told Israel that the 33 hostages to be released would include the remains of some who have died.

The proposal would also see Israel withdraw from populated areas of Gaza and allow Gazans to return to their homes in northern Gaza once conditions were met, as well as increase humanitarian aid. For this section, in attempt to "call Hamas' bluff," the Times said, Israel "virtually cut and pasted" some of Hamas' proposal from March into its own proposal.

During the six-week ceasefire, Israel and Hamas were to negotiate the second phase, which would see another six-week ceasefire and the release of IDF soldiers in exchange for a larger number of convicted terrorists.

US and Israeli officials have confirmed that Israel's refusal to send a delegation to Cairo on Friday was due to the fact that no delegation was needed, since Israel had said its piece and was awaiting a response. Israel is expected to send a delegation to Cairo later this week to discuss Hamas' counteroffer, despite the fact that Netanyahu's office has clarified that Hamas' counteroffer "failed to meet Israel's demands."

Two US officials familiar with Hamas' counteroffer claimed to the Times that the new version has "minor wording changes" from the proposal approved by Israel and the US.

The officials added that the changes were made by Arab mediators "in consultation with William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director." They also said that the new version discusses eventual enactment of a "sustainable calm," a term which all sides had previously promised to accept, and that Hamas response "was a serious one," and that the ball is now in Israel's court.

Hamas is likely to view "sustainable calm" as an end to the war, with Israel completely withdrawing from Gaza and ending its war against Hamas. One official, however, pointed out that "sustainable calm" was included after Israel had already objected to any reference to a permanent ceasefire.