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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Israel proposes new hostage deal to Hamas – Axios

The militants were reportedly offered a two-month ceasefire in exchange for gradually releasing the captives

The Israeli government has offered Hamas a pause in the fighting of up to 60 days so all the remaining captives can be released, Axios reported on Monday, citing two unnamed officials.

Hamas seized around 240 Israelis in its October 7 raid from Gaza. While some were released during a week-long humanitarian pause at the end of November, Israel estimates that 130 are still being held in the Palestinian enclave.

Read more: Israel approves sale of world’s first lab-grown beef

According to two Israeli officials who spoke to Axios reporter Barak Ravid, the War Cabinet approved the parameters of the proposal “ten days ago” and sent it to Hamas via Qatar and Egypt. Israel is now waiting for the militant group’s response and is reportedly “cautiously optimistic” about it.

US envoy Brett McGurk was in Egypt on Sunday and is set to proceed to Qatar for talks aimed at negotiating the release of captives held by Hamas.

Under the terms of the Israeli proposal, the first phase would see Hamas releasing women, men over 60, and hostages who are in critical medical condition, Axios wrote. The second phase would involve releasing female soldiers, male civilians under 60, male soldiers, and finally the bodies of hostages that have been killed.

Israel is prepared to stop operations for “up to two months,” the longest truce it has offered since PM Benjamin Netanyahu declared war on Hamas. However, the government is not prepared to end the war or release all 6,000 Palestinian prisoners, according to Axios. Hamas and Israel would have to agree in advance on how many Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli in every category, and negotiate on their names separately.

The proposal also includes a “redeployment” of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from parts of Gaza and allowing a “gradual return” of Palestinians to Gaza City. If Hamas accepts the deal, IDF operations in Gaza will continue after 60 days but would be “significantly smaller in scope and intensity,” the officials who spoke to Axios have said.

Read more: Israel has killed just a fifth of Hamas fighters – WSJ

Israel has estimated Hamas casualties at 10,000 killed and 16,000 wounded, while the recently published US estimates were somewhat lower. The Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry has said over 25,000 Palestinians have died in the conflict, two-thirds of them women and children. Citing the high rate of reported civilian casualties, South Africa recently filed a genocide case against Israel before the International Court of Justice. The IDF denies indiscriminately targeting civilians and accuses Hamas of using people as human shields.