Israel’s war on Gaza: All to know about the truce proposal Hamas agreed to

Palestinian group Hamas says it has agreed to an Egyptian-Qatari proposal, but Israel says it falls short of demands.

Optimism on the streets of Rafah, as Palestinians celebrate the news that Hamas has agreed to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal [AFP]
Optimism on the streets of Rafah as Palestinians celebrate the news that Hamas has agreed to an Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal [AFP]

Hamas officials have shown Al Jazeera a copy of the Egyptian-Qatari ceasefire proposal that the movement says it has agreed to.

The proposal includes three phases and would see an end to Israel’s war on Gaza as well as the release of Israeli captives held in the enclave and Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Hamas’s announcement on Monday was met with celebrations in Gaza as Palestinians hoped it would finally bring an end to a nearly seven-month-long war, in which Israel has killed at least 34,700 people in the Palestinian territory.

However, Israel’s response has been less enthusiastic, as it continued to emphasise its desire to attack Rafah in southern Gaza and to completely defeat Hamas.

Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 killed about 1,400 people, while 250 were taken captive to Gaza. Approximately 100 of those captives are believed to still be alive and in Gaza, with others released or killed during the war.

For its part, the United States has been tight-lipped. Officials said they were reviewing Hamas’s response to the ceasefire proposal, but did not provide any details about the deal or what exactly the Palestinian group had agreed to.

Palestinians react after Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt and Qatar, in Rafah
Palestinians react after Hamas accepted a ceasefire proposal from Egypt and Qatar, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 6, 2024 [Doaa Al Baz/Reuters]

What is the deal Hamas says it agreed to?

The agreement is a complicated one and would involve three phases, each of which would last six weeks.

In the first phase, there would be a temporary cessation of hostilities between Hamas and Israel as well as a withdrawal of Israeli forces to the east, away from the more heavily-populated areas of Gaza, and towards the border between Israel and the Palestinian enclave. Israeli airplanes and drones would also stop flying over Gaza for 10 hours each day, and for 12 hours on days when captives are released.

Hamas would gradually release 33 captives (whether captives who are alive or the remains of captives who have died) in the first phase. The captives will be women, anyone above the age of 50, those who are sick or non-soldiers under the age of 19. For each civilian Israeli captive released alive, Israel would release 30 Palestinians it has detained. For every female soldier released by Hamas, Israel would release 50 Palestinians.

The withdrawal of Israeli forces would allow displaced Palestinian civilians to return to their homes across Gaza, which would occur gradually as Hamas releases captives. Separately, the deal stipulates that reconstruction work in Gaza must begin in this phase, as well as the flow of aid, and that UNRWA and other relief organisations be allowed to work to help civilians.

In the second phase of the deal, there would be a permanent end to military operations and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. There would also be another prisoner swap, this time involving all the remaining Israeli men, including soldiers held captive in Gaza. The Israelis would be released in return for an as-yet unspecified number of Palestinian prisoners.

The third phase would see an exchange of the remains of captives and prisoners held by both sides. On the development side, this phase would involve a three-to-five-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and, perhaps most significantly, an end to the Israeli blockade of the enclave.

What has the reaction been from Israel?

Israel had on Monday told Palestinians in eastern Rafah to leave as it prepared to launch a military campaign in the southern Gaza area, despite international opposition. This seemed to indicate the Israelis did not think a deal was on the cards.

But now, as Hamas’s deputy leader Khalil al-Hayya put it, the ball is in Israel’s court. The Israelis have responded warily. Initial reports in the Israeli media pushed the message that the deal Hamas had agreed to was not what Israel had been discussing.

Meanwhile, far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir immediately took to social media to reject the deal and call for the invasion of Rafah.

An Israeli official speaking to the Reuters news agency added that Hamas’s announcement appeared “to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal”.

Eventually, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the deal fell short of Israel’s demands but that he would send a delegation to Cairo to meet negotiators.

He added that Israel’s war cabinet had agreed unanimously to “continue the operation in Rafah to exert military pressure on Hamas”, and on Monday night, intense Israeli air attacks took place in southern Gaza.

Meanwhile, family members of captives held in Gaza protested in Tel Aviv, calling for the government to accept a deal.

How have Palestinians in Gaza reacted?

Palestinians across Gaza immediately took to the streets to celebrate. For the enclave’s population, a deal would spell the end of what has been a devastating war, in which the whole of Gaza has been decimated and death has not spared most families.

However, some of that joy has been tempered by the reality this deal has only been agreed to on one side. So while many remain optimistic, Palestinians know this is not the end of the war – particularly as Israel continues to rain down bombs.

Has the US commented on the ceasefire deal?

US officials at the White House and the State Department were repeatedly asked by journalists during news briefings about Hamas’s acceptance of the deal.

But Matthew Miller, the State Department spokesperson, and John Kirby, the White House National Security spokesperson, refused to get into any details, with Miller saying Washington would “withhold judgement” until officials had time to fully review Hamas’s response.

Miller declined to say whether Hamas had agreed to a US-approved offer or to a different version of the proposal.

“As you know, [CIA] Director [William] Burns is in the region working on this in real-time. We will be discussing this response with our partners over the coming hours,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Kirby said that President Joe Biden had been briefed on Hamas’s response, adding that talks were at a “critical stage” and he did not want to say anything that would jeopardise the prospects of reaching an agreement.

Source: Al Jazeera