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7 Feb, 2024 12:58

Hamas proposes three-stage Gaza ceasefire plan – Reuters

Israel is likely to reject the initiative to end the war, reports say
Hamas proposes three-stage Gaza ceasefire plan – Reuters

The Hamas militant group has issued a counterproposal designed to bring about a permanent end to the conflict in Gaza, Reuters reported on Wednesday. The initiative is a response to a ceasefire plan issued last week by mediators from Egypt and Qatar, which was backed by the US and Israel.

A draft of the Hamas plan seen by the news agency proposes a three-stage, 135-day ceasefire that would culminate in a cessation of hostilities and a withdrawal of Israeli forces.

The first phase would see Hamas militants release the remaining Israeli hostages from Gaza in exchange for as many as 1,500 Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel, Reuters reported. Subsequent phases would involve a start to the reconstruction of the devastated Gaza territory, and an exchange of the remains of people killed in the four-month war.

It also envisions a deal to permanently end the conflict by the end of the third, 45-day phase. The truce would also allow for the delivery of additional food, medical supplies, and other forms of aid to 2.3 million Gazans, many of whom have been displaced by the violence amid warnings of a deepening humanitarian crisis.

The Israeli plan sent last month called for a six-week ceasefire and the gradual exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners. In a week-long truce in November, 110 Israeli hostages were released in exchange for 240 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails.

Israel has yet to formally respond to the Hamas counteroffer but an unnamed official told the country's media that the proposal was a “non-starter,” The Guardian reported on Wednesday. Another official told the country’s Channel 12 News that the Hamas proposal indicated “a refusal to deal,” the outlet said.

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday that Hamas had responded to Israel’s call for a truce but that it “seems to be a little over the top,” adding that negotiations were ongoing.

Biden’s top diplomat, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, arrived in Israel overnight as part of Washington’s efforts designed to combat escalating violence in the Middle East linked to the war in Gaza. Several world leaders have warned that the situation could expand into a broader regional conflict.

At least 27,585 people have so far died in the bombardment of the Gaza enclave, according to Palestinian health officials. About 85% of Gaza’s residents have been displaced during the conflict, the UN has said.

The Israeli military campaign was launched in response to Hamas’ October 7, 2023 cross-border incursion into its territory, where it killed about 1,200 people and seized 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.