Hamas Delegation to Seek Ceasefire in Cairo Talks

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Hamas has proposed a 135-day ceasefire deal to end the ongoing conflict in Gaza even after Netanyahu rejected it

Hamas official Osama Hamdan announced that a delegation led by high-ranking member Khalil al-Hayya will head to Cairo on Thursday to engage in ceasefire discussions with Egypt and Qatar.

This comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected Hamas’s ceasefire proposal, to which Hamdan responded that Hamas is prepared to deal with all options.

Hamas proposed a three-stage ceasefire deal on Tuesday that would last 135 days, lead to the end of Israel’s war on Gaza and the exchange of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners.

According to a draft document seen by Middle East Eye, the proposal outlines a phased plan lasting 45 days per stage.

In the initial 45-day period, Hamas calls for Israel to release all female, child, elderly and sick Palestinian prisoners over 50 in exchange for the release of all Israeli women, children under 19, elderly and sick from Gaza. Israel would also release 1,500 Palestinian prisoners, including 500 serving life sentences.

Additionally, the deal requires Israeli forces to withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, allowing freedom of movement across the territory. The UN would be permitted to establish encampments in Gaza as well.

The proposal calls for “a temporary cessation of military operations, a cessation of aerial reconnaissance, and a repositioning of Israeli forces far outside the populated areas in the entire Gaza Strip.”

The second 45-day phase would see Israel release all remaining male prisoners and hostages in exchange for an unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners.

In the final stage, the remains of Palestinian and Israeli captives who died in custody would be returned to their families.

By the end of the 135 days, Hamas expects to reach a permanent agreement to end the Gaza war.

The proposal also calls for increased humanitarian aid flow into Gaza, where shortages of food and supplies are acute. Two million Palestinians currently face hunger there.

Hamas appended requests for Israel to end violence at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and resume UN aid services in Gaza provided by UNRWA.

Children traumatised in Gaza hospital.
Children traumatised in Gaza hospital.

Tuesday’s proposal came in response to a plan put forward last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and backed by the United States and Israel.

On Tuesday, speaking at a press conference in the Qatari capital Doha, Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, described Hamas’s reaction to a proposed truce deal with Israel as “generally positive”, without providing more details.

The ongoing war in Gaza started when a Hamas-led assault on Israel killed at least 1,140 Israelis. Israel retaliated by relentlessly bombing the Palestinian enclave and launching a ground invasion, killing at least 27,700 Palestinians and destroying large swathes of the area’s civilian infrastructure.

Israeli officials have previously stated their intent to continue the war until they are able to decisively defeat Hamas, claiming that not even the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will stop them.

Israel is currently facing accusations of breaching the Genocide Convention at the ICJ, in response to a case filed by South Africa. In the interim, the court ordered Israel to take measures to prevent genocidal acts in Gaza, and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Saudi Arabia defied a claim by the Biden administration that it would normalise relations with Israel before the achievement of a ceasefire in Gaza, also stressing its insistence regarding the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

China, on the other hand, accused the US of stoking tensions in the Middle East due to its “failure to implement a ceasefire” in Gaza and for its recent retaliatory strikes against Iran-backed groups in Iraq and Syria.

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a total victory in Gaza was achievable, rejecting Hamas’s latest ceasefire proposal aimed at securing the release of hostages still held in the besieged enclave.

Netanyahu added that there was no alternative for Israel but causing the collapse of Hamas.

“The day after is the day after Hamas. All of Hamas,” he told a news conference.

He said that no part of the Gaza Strip would be immune and that “There is no other solution except total victory”.

However undeterred…senior Hamas official Osama Hamdan announced that a delegation led by high-ranking member Khalil al-Hayya will head to Cairo on Thursday to engage in ceasefire discussions with Egypt and Qatar.

The group submitted its feedback on the proposal, aiming for a lasting and complete ceasefire, the facilitation of food aid entry, and the removal of the blockade on Gaza.

The US and its Arab allies worry about the growing risks of a wider regional conflagration. And many international organisations are loudly warning of the deepening humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the Strip. Many clocks are ticking loudly.

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