Egypt sets out ambitious Israel-Gaza ceasefire plan

Israel’s divided war cabinet to discuss proposal. Hamas reported to reject suggestion of sharing power in Gaza.

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry attends a meeting with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim-majority nations at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on November 20, 2023. - The international community must take urgent action to stop the "humanitarian disaster" unfolding in Gaza, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told visiting diplomats from Arab and Muslim-majority nations on November 20. (Photo by Pedro PARDO / AFP)
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry [Pedro Pardo/AFP]

Egypt has presented what is described as an ambitious plan to end the war in Gaza with a ceasefire.

The proposal, which was presented to Israel, Hamas, the United States and European governments on Monday would see Israel fully withdraw from the Gaza Strip, all captives held by Hamas, and many Palestinian prisoners, freed, and a united technocratic Palestinian government installed in the enclave.

The proposal, developed with the Gulf state of Qatar, includes several rounds of captive and prisoner exchanges, reports Al Jazeera’s Bernard Smith from Tel Aviv.

In the first phase, Hamas would free all civilian captives in return for the release of Palestinian prisoners over a truce of 7-10 days.

During the second stage, Hamas would release all female Israeli soldiers in return for more Palestinian prisoners, taking place during another weeklong truce.

In the final phase, the warring parties would engage in “a month of negotiations to discuss the release of all military personnel held by Hamas in exchange for a lot more [Palestinian] prisoners and Israel pulling back to Gaza’s borders”, said Smith.

Close to 8,000 Palestinians are held by Israel on security-related charges or convictions, according to Palestinian figures.

Throughout the ceasefire, Egypt would also lead talks to reunite Palestinian factions Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, who would then jointly appoint a government of experts to run the West Bank and Gaza, ahead of future elections, reports The Times of Israel.


The plan appears to be preliminary, and there are already suggestions that it could struggle to gain traction with either side.

Israel’s war cabinet was due to discuss the proposal on Monday, even as its military continued pounding Gaza over the Christmas holiday, killing at least 100 Palestinians within 12 hours.

Experts noted that the cabinet, which has been under intense pressure to bring home the remaining captives, is divided and may struggle to accept some of the deal’s terms.

“One challenge is a ceasefire versus a truce,” Mohammed Cherkaoui, a professor of conflict resolution at George Mason University, told Al Jazeera. “Palestinians are talking about a full-fledged ceasefire. The Israelis are hearing a ‘truce,’ a pause.”

Cherkaoui added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would also have to pull back from its stated mission of eradicating Hamas.

“On the one hand [Netanyahu] is still negotiating with Hamas indirectly, but at the same time his main dream is to eradicate Hamas.”

“He lives in two separate worlds and he needs to unify them,” said Cherkaoui.

A Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Netanyahu and his hawkish government were unlikely to accept the full proposal.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad have rejected the proposal that they relinquish power in the Gaza Strip, quoting Egyptian security sources.

But later a Hamas official denied rejecting the Egyptian deal. Izzat al-Risheq, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, said in a statement that the group had “no knowledge” of the information published in the Reuters report.

Israel is entering its 12th week of a devastating air and ground campaign in Gaza that has killed more than 20,400 Palestinians, including 8,200 children.

Air strikes have wrecked much of the besieged enclave, taking out entire blocks and neighbourhoods, and displaced 1.9 million Palestinians who now live in “catastrophic” conditions with little food, water and medicine, the United Nations warns.

There are still 129 captives thought to remain captive in Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israeli territory, which also killed nearly 1,200.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies