Hamas has presented a ceasefire proposal designed to bring a cessation of hostilities in Gaza for a duration of four and a half months. As part of this plan, all hostages would be released, Israel would withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip, and negotiations would aim to establish terms for ending the ongoing conflict. This proposal from the militant group comes in response to an offer transmitted last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators, which had received approval from both Israel and the United States. This marks a significant diplomatic effort seeking an extended pause in the ongoing hostilities.
The deal, which would begin on Oct. 1 and extend for the first time since the beginning of the conflict to Feb. 28, would include a freeze on military activity, the transfer of Palestinian security forces to Gaza, and an intensification of humanitarian aid to the territory. In the long run, it would also include “a complete Israeli withdrawal from the populated areas of the Gaza Strip,” the statement said.
During the three-stage period, Israel would stop its air and ground attacks and restore utility services to the region. In the second phase, Hamas would release women and children under 19 who aren’t enlisted in the military and the sick and elderly, according to the statement. The third stage would involve a complete Israeli withdrawal, the release of the bodies of dead soldiers, and an increase in deliveries of food and aid to the region, it said.
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In exchange, Israel would stop its offensive against the Gaza Strip, resume direct peace talks, and release all Palestinian prisoners who have not committed grave crimes, including those serving life sentences, Hamas’ statement said. It added that a final deal’s framework would be agreed upon by the end of the 135-day pause.
The announcement drew tepid responses in the United States, where President Joe Biden called it “a little over the top,” and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said there was still a lot to work out.
Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been struggling under relentless Israeli bombardment that has leveled entire neighborhoods and displaced three-quarters of its residents. Most families live in overcrowded and squalid shelters, where they have only been able to access limited supplies of food and medicine from the U.N. and receive electricity from diesel generators that are running out of fuel.
The latest Gaza pause, which started Friday, has brought some relief, with food distributions increasing from 80 to 200 trucks daily. But this is still only a fraction of the number that Gaza was importing before the war began, and many displaced Gazans say they’re not sure what to do next.