US says it is studying Hamas response on Gaza ceasefire, will discuss with allies

Displaced Palestinians who fled Rafah, ahead of a threatened Israeli assault, travel in Al-Mawasi area, in Khan Younis

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is studying Hamas's response to a ceasefire proposal and will discuss it with allies in the Middle East in the coming hours, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Monday.

An Israeli official said no ceasefire agreement had been reached despite the Palestinian militant group Hamas saying on Monday it had accepted a proposal from Egyptian and Qatari mediators after weeks of stop-start talks on a deal for a temporary pause in fighting and the release of hostages to Israel.

"I can confirm that Hamas has issued a response. We are reviewing that response now and discussing it with our partners in the region," Miller said on Monday afternoon, confirming that a response was received in the last hour or 90 minutes and that discussions would take place in the coming hours.

CIA director Bill Burns is in the region "working on this in real time," Miller said.

The Hamas announcement came hours after Israel ordered the evacuation of parts of Rafah, the city on Gaza's southern edge that has served as the last sanctuary for around half of Gaza's 2.3 million residents.

That appeared to signal that an operation on Rafah will go ahead, despite Washington's repeated warnings, including by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a visit to Israel last week, where he also focused on increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Miller reiterated that the United States could not support an operation in Rafah "as it is currently envisioned" by Israel.

"A Rafah operation would make it incredibly difficult to sustain the increases in humanitarian assistance that we have been able to deliver over the past few weeks," Miller said.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk, Jasper Ward and Simon Lewis, editing by Deepa Babington)