WH wants Hamas to accept ceasefire

The White House on Tuesday said it sees an Egyptian offer to broker a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinians as a “live option” and urged Hamas to accept the agreement.

"We'd like to see Hamas accept the terms of the ceasefire agreement that were forwarded by the Egyptians," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

"That would be a way for us to quickly de-escalate the situation and restore some measure of calm to the area and allow for a broader discussion and set of negotiations about trying to bring some enduring sense of calm to that region of the world," he added.

Earnest repeatedly expressed optimism, saying that the White House was encouraged that "the Egyptians, in a very compressed time period, put forward the specific proposal and had this proposal considered and accepted by the Israelis."

He said he did not share reporters’ “pessimism” about the prospects for a deal even as conditions on the ground seemed to worsen Tuesday after Hamas rejected the initial offer and Israeli officials began preparations to escalate their response.

Israel suspended airstrikes for six hours as part of the peace plan, offered by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. The three-stage plan called for a halt of rocket fire from both sides, followed shortly thereafter by the opening of Gaza’s border crossings. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators would then meet within 48 hours in Cairo.

But Hamas’s leaders said they were not consulted as part of the deal, and that it did not include concessions to loosen a blockade that has restricted the flow of construction materials and supplies into Gaza. Hamas militants continued to fire rockets, and the Israeli government announced Tuesday it was resuming military action.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country had "no choice" but to respond with "great force" after Hamas rejected the proposal. The first Israeli civilian was killed Tuesday by a rocket attack.

Earnest insisted that the cease-fire was still the best way to "ensure the safety or at least enhance the safety and well-being of civilians who are caught in the crossfire in that region."

"All eyes now turn to Hamas and the groups in Palestinian-held territories who are firing rockets," he said. "And the question for them is whether or not they are going to abide by the cease-fire agreement that was put forward by the Egyptians.

“That's the key right now," said Earnest.