Israel has agreed to a ceasefire proposal that would halt its war with Hamas, Al Jazeera reported on Thursday, citing the Qatari Foreign Ministry. Hamas has reportedly given the plan a “positive” response.
The ceasefire plan was hashed out in Paris over the weekend, with Qatari and Egyptian diplomats mediating between Israel and the Palestinian militant group. Delegations from West Jerusalem and Gaza left the French capital promising to study the proposal and negotiate further this week, and by Thursday evening, a deal was apparently within reach.
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“Israel agreed to the ceasefire proposal and we have initial positive confirmation from Hamas,” a spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry said on Thursday evening, according to Al Jazeera. “We are awaiting their response,” the spokesman added.
The proposed ceasefire will be implemented in three stages, according to a Hamas statement shared with Reuters earlier this week. The first phase would see fighting stop for 40 days as Hamas hands over the female civilians, children, and elderly people it is still holding captive. During this time, large-scale deliveries of food and medicine into Gaza would resume.’
The following stages would see Hamas turn over captive Israeli soldiers and the bodies of Israeli troops, in exchange for further aid deliveries and the freeing of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
“Military operations on both sides will stop during the three stages,” the militants said, adding that the number of Palestinian prisoners freed would be open to negotiation.
The proposal falls short of the full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza that Hamas initially demanded. As a step toward ending the war, however, it also threatens Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to keep fighting until Israel achieves “total victory” over the militants, as he has promised on multiple occasions.
While hardliners within Netanyahu’s cabinet have pressed him to reject any deal they view as too lenient towards Hamas, Israel has faced international condemnation over its conduct in Gaza, and two of the Jewish state’s most stalwart backers – the US and UK – suggested this week that they could soon recognize an independent Palestinian state. Such an outcome would be a political disaster for Netanyahu, who angered Washington and London last month when he outright rejected a two-state solution to the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians.
Hamas fighters attacked Israel on October 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking roughly 240 as hostages. Israel responded by imposing a siege on Gaza and launching waves of airstrikes on the densely populated enclave. A ground operation followed three weeks later, and after almost four months of fighting, more than 27,000 Palestinians have died, two thirds of them women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.