Hamas paves way for possible ceasefire – and reportedly drops key demand

Hamas paves way for possible ceasefire – and reportedly drops key demand

Photo: Ohad Zwijnberg/AFP

Hamas has reportedly paved the way for a possible ceasefire agreement by dropping a demand that Israel commit in advance to a complete cessation of hostilities in Gaza.

Recent days have seen a significant intensification of efforts to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and release the hostages. At the same time that the war continues apace in large parts of the Gaza Strip, shuttle diplomacy is underway between Washington, Israel and Qatar – where the Hamas leadership is based in exile.

The Associated Press on Saturday quoted sources in Hamas and Egypt as claiming that the Palestinian movement is open to a compromise.

Reuters also quoted a senior Hamas source as confirming that the movement no longer demands that Israel commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing a preliminary agreement.

Hope for first break since November

If true, it could enable Israel and Hamas to negotiate the first temporary pause in the Gaza war since a week-long ceasefire collapsed last November.

A Palestinian official close to the talks told Reuters the proposal could lead to a framework agreement to end the war if Israel agreed.

A US official did not confirm Hamas' decision.

– There is real progress, but there is still a lot of work to be done, the person says.

More than 38,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip since October 7, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian health authorities. In addition, several thousand people are missing, and an unknown number are buried under the rubble.

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Ninety percent of Gaza's population has been displaced as a result of the war, and nearly half a million people are suffering from what the United Nations describes as catastrophic levels of hunger.

– Real opportunity

An unnamed source on the Israeli negotiating team told Reuters on Friday that there was now a real chance of reaching an agreement. This is in sharp contrast to previous instances during the nine-month war, when Israel decided that Hamas’s terms were unacceptable. The Israeli government said on Friday that negotiations with Hamas through mediators would continue next week.

Cairo TV learned on Saturday evening that Egypt will host American and Israeli delegations in negotiations on “remaining issues.”

The new proposal means that mediators must ensure a temporary ceasefire, the delivery of emergency aid and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza as long as indirect talks continue, according to the Hamas source who spoke to Reuters.

Three stages still to go

The Hamas and Egyptian officials told The Associated Press that the U.S. plan for a three-stage cease-fire could begin with a “full and complete” six-week cease-fire, during which the elderly, sick and hostages would be released in exchange for several hundred Palestinian prisoners.

The sources said that during the same 42 days, Israeli forces will withdraw from densely populated areas in Gaza, while at the same time allowing the displaced to return to their homes in northern Gaza.

In parallel, Hamas, Israel and mediators from Egypt, the United States and Qatar will negotiate the terms of the second phase. The plan is to release the remaining Israeli hostages and prisoners of war, both civilians and soldiers, the Associated Press reported. Israel is also set to release a number of Palestinian prisoners.

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In the third stage, any remaining hostages, including the remains of the hostages, will be returned to Israel. At the same time, a year-long reconstruction project will begin.

Requires written guarantees

Hamas is still demanding written guarantees from mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire agreement once the first phase of the plan goes into effect, the sources said.

A Hamas representative told the Associated Press that the movement's agreement came after they received “verbal commitments and guarantees” from mediators that the war would not resume and that negotiations would continue until a permanent cease-fire was reached.

“Now we want to get these guarantees on paper,” the source says.

The Gaza war was sparked by a Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,195 people, most of them civilians.

The Palestinian militants also held about 250 hostages, more than 100 of whom were released in prisoner swaps during last year’s ceasefire. There are 116 people still in the Gaza Strip, including 42 who, according to the Israeli military, are no longer alive, according to an AFP overview.

Jabori Obasanjo

Jabori Obasanjo

"Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer."

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