Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Hamas appears to be paving the way for a possible ceasefire deal with Israel after dropping a key demand.


There is new hope for ceasefire agreement In the Middle East after Hamas responded to the US-backed proposal for a phased agreement in Gaza.

The militant group, which took control of Gaza before igniting the war with its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, has reportedly given its initial approval to the cease-fire after dropping a key demand that Israel make a prior commitment to end the war completely, a Hamas official and an Egyptian official told The Associated Press on Saturday.

A senior US official says Hamas’s response to the proposal “may provide the basis for completing the deal.”

The apparent deal could lead to the first cessation of hostilities since November and pave the way for further talks to end nine months of devastating fighting, but all sides have warned that a deal is far from guaranteed.

The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, told The Associated Press that the interim agreement reached by Washington would first include a “full and comprehensive” six-week cease-fire that would see a number of hostages, including women, elderly and wounded, released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from densely populated areas of Gaza over the next 42 days and allow displaced people to return to their homes in northern Gaza, the officials said.

During that period, officials said, Hamas, Israel and mediators would negotiate the terms of a second phase that would see the release of the remaining male hostages, both civilians and soldiers. In return, Israel would release additional Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The third phase would see the return of any remaining hostages, including the bodies of those killed, and the start of a reconstruction project that would last for years.

Protesters support Palestinians during a demonstration calling for an end to the genocide in Gaza, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, July 6, 2024.

Ahn Young-joon/The Associated Press

Officials said Hamas still wants “written guarantees” from mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent ceasefire agreement once the first phase goes into effect.

A Hamas representative told The Associated Press that the movement’s agreement came after it 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 these guarantees on paper,” he added.

In line with previous proposals, the agreement would allow about 600 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza each day — including 50 fuel trucks — with half of them heading to the hard-hit northern part of the territory, the officials said. Following Israel’s assault on the southernmost city of Rafah, aid supplies entering Gaza have been severely curtailed.

Israel launched the war on Gaza after Hamas militants stormed southern Israel in October, killing about 1,200 people – mostly civilians – and kidnapping about 250 others. Israel says Hamas is still holding about 120 hostages – about a third of whom are now believed to be dead.

Since then, the Israeli air and ground assault has killed more than 38,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which does not distinguish between combatants and civilians in its count. The offensive has caused widespread destruction and a humanitarian crisis that has left hundreds of thousands of people on the brink of starvation, according to international officials.

Months of ceasefire talks have faltered over Hamas’s demand that any deal include a complete cessation of hostilities. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to halt but not end the fighting until Israel achieves its goals of destroying Hamas’s military and governmental capabilities and returning all hostages held by the militant group.

Netanyahu’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and there was no immediate comment from Washington.

Israel says it is resuming stalled negotiations to reach a ceasefire agreement in Gaza

CBS News reported earlier that An Israeli delegation headed by Mossad director David Barnea was traveling to Qatar. for talks. Sources told CBS News that Bernie was scheduled to meet with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani for discussions.

The Israeli prime minister confirmed on Friday that the head of the intelligence agency had made a flying visit to Qatar, which is acting as a key mediator, but his office said “gaps between the two sides” remained.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters that President Biden had a 30-minute phone call with Netanyahu on Thursday, during which the two leaders reviewed the latest draft of the proposal.

The latest proposal includes new language proposed to Egypt and Qatar on Saturday and addresses indirect negotiations that are set to begin during the first phase of a three-phase agreement reached in 2015, U.S. officials said. Mr. Biden put In his speech on May 31.

Hamas has expressed concern that Israel will resume the war after the hostages are released. Israeli officials have said they are concerned that Hamas will prolong the talks and the initial ceasefire indefinitely, without releasing all the hostages.

Netanyahu is under pressure from Israel’s closest ally – the United States – to negotiate a ceasefire, but at home, two far-right members of his government have threatened to bring down the ruling coalition if he agrees to a truce.

Israeli bombing continues

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said four police officers were killed in an Israeli airstrike Saturday in Rafah, the Associated Press reported. The ministry, which oversees the civilian police, said the officers were killed while on foot patrol to secure property. It said eight other police officers were wounded. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions.

In Deir al-Balah, funeral prayers were held for 12 Palestinians, including five children and two women, killed in three separate airstrikes in central Gaza on Friday and Saturday, hospital officials said. The bodies were taken to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital, where Associated Press journalists counted them.

Juliette Touma, communications director for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), said two of those killed in the airstrike on the Maghazi refugee camp on Friday were UNRWA staff. A total of 194 UNRWA staff have been killed since October, she said.

Palestinians displaced by an Israeli air and ground assault on the Gaza Strip walk past sewage flowing into the streets of the southern city of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 4, 2024.

Jihad Al-Sharfi / AFP

Earlier this week, Israeli Evacuation Order In the southern city of Khan Younis and surrounding areas, some 250,000 Palestinians were affected. Many of them headed to an Israeli-declared “safe zone” centered in the coastal area of ​​Al-Mawasi or Deir al-Balah.

Ground fighting has raged in the Shujaiya neighbourhood of Gaza City over the past two weeks, forcing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes. Many have taken refuge in the Yarmouk Sports Stadium, one of the largest football stadiums in the Strip.

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Rainerio Manuel
Rainerio Manuel

"Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst."