Israel-Gaza War: Hamas Responds To Proposed Gaza Ceasefire Plan

Israel-Gaza War: Hamas Responds To Proposed Gaza Ceasefire Plan

By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Hamas has responded to a US-backed Israeli ceasefire plan for the war in Gaza with its own far-reaching proposal for a permanent end to the fighting.

It is a position Israel is almost certain to reject, but which mediators are viewing positively, as it appears the group is willing to engage in further negotiations.

Hamas put forward its three-stage plan late on Tuesday via Qatari and Egyptian mediators. Under the plan Palestinian militants would exchange Israeli hostages they captured on 7 October for 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, secure the reconstruction of Gaza, ensure the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces and an exchange of bodies and remains, according to a draft document seen by Reuters.

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Hamas’s counter-proposal envisions three phases of a truce, of 45 days each. It comes in response to a plan put forward by Israel two weeks ago which suggests a six-week cessation of hostilities and phased release of the estimated 130 Israelis still held hostage in Gaza in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

In the Hamas plan, all Israeli women hostages, men under 19, the elderly and sick would be released during the first 45-day phase, in exchange for Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails. The remaining male hostages would be released during the second phase, and bodies exchanged in the third phase. By the end of the third phase, Hamas would expect the sides to have reached agreement on an end to the war.

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The truce would also increase the flow of food and other aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million desperate civilians who are facing severe shortages of food, water and medicine.

Israel has not yet publicly commented on the details of the Hamas proposal, but several unnamed officials told local media that the demand to bring the war to a close was a “non-starter”. A senior Israeli official told the country’s Channel 12 News: “The meaning of Hamas’s answer is a refusal to deal.”

The US president, Joe Biden, also commented on Hamas’s counter-proposal, saying: “There’s been a response from Hamas, but it seems to be a little over the top … There’s continuing negotiations right now.”

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Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has repeatedly said that the war will not end until there is total victory over Hamas. However, the unofficial Israeli position is likely to be more pragmatic.

The columnist Yoav Limor argued in the Israeli daily newspaper Israel Hayom: “Hamas’s response is an opening position – a very high opening position, admittedly – but not one that entirely precludes the possibility of reaching a deal.

“Obviously, Israel will not agree to the sweeping conditions that Hamas has posed … That said, Israel is prepared to discuss the details, such as the duration of the ceasefire, the quantity of aid allowed into Gaza and, of course, the number and identity of the prisoners who are to be released in exchange for the hostages. Presumably, that is what will happen now.”

A major sticking point in talks so far is how many and which Palestinians will be released. In the week-long November truce 110 Israelis were freed in return for 240 Palestinians who were mostly women and children held for minor offences or in administrative detention. But the new list is also believed to include hardened militants serving life sentences.

Both sides are still keen to blame the other for a failure to reach a second ceasefire deal. Hamas has set conditions that Israel is highly unlikely to accept; Netanyahu, on the other hand, faces the potential collapse of his far-right coalition government if Israel agrees to any sort of truce.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, arrived in Israel overnight, part of his latest whistle-stop diplomatic tour of the region aimed at containing spiralling violence across the Middle East triggered by the war in Gaza.

Israel began its military offensive in the strip after Hamas killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in the devastating attack on Israel on 7 October last year.

At least 27,585 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli campaign, with thousands more feared buried under rubble, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. About 85% of the 2.3 million population have been displaced from their homes and more than half of the besieged Palestinian territory’s infrastructure destroyed, the UN says.

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