Middle east

Hamas proposes a plan to end the war with Israel in three stages 

The Hamas movement presents a plan to cease fire for 135 days and work on the exchange of Israeli hostages with Palestinian prisoners, the reconstruction of Gaza, and the withdrawal of the Israeli army from the territory

The Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, has proposed a plan to cease fire aimed at calming the bombardment that the Gaza Strip has been facing for four and a half months, leading to the end of the war. This comes in response to a proposal conveyed last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and enjoys the support of the United States and Israel

A draft document indicates that Hamas‘s proposal includes three stages, each lasting 45 days. It involves the exchange of remaining Israeli hostages, whom the movement has held since October 7th, with Palestinian prisoners. It also calls for the commencement of Gaza’s reconstruction, complete Israeli military withdrawal, and the exchange of bodies and remains. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel last night after meeting with Qatari and Egyptian leaders in a significant diplomatic effort to reach a long-term ceasefire. Details of Hamas‘s response have not been disclosed. 

According to Hamas‘s draft response, “Israeli detainees, including women, children (under 19 years old who are not soldiers), the elderly, and the sick, will be released in exchange for all prisoners held by the occupation, including women, children, the elderly (over 50 years old), and the sick, who have been arrested until the date of signing this agreement, without exception.” The remaining male hostages will be released during the second stage, and the exchange of bodies and remains will occur in the third stage. 

By the end of the third stage, Hamas expects both parties to reach an agreement to end the war. The movement managing Gaza stated in an annex to the proposal that it seeks to release 1500 Palestinian prisoners, with Hamas designating 500 of them with life sentences or high convictions. Additionally, the ceasefire is expected to increase the flow of food and other aid to civilians in Gaza who face hunger and severe shortages of basic supplies. 

Hebrew media sources reported Wednesday that Israel will discuss its position on Hamas‘s response to the anticipated exchange deal and ceasefire through several countries’ mediation. The Israeli news site “Walla” stated Wednesday, “Israel’s response to the proposal will be discussed during the day,” without further details. 

Meanwhile, Channel 13 stated, “The political leadership will meet today to discuss Hamas‘s response with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” without providing more details. The channel quoted an unnamed official as saying, “There are many points in Hamas‘s response that cannot be accepted. The dilemma at present is whether to directly reject the demands or engage in negotiations to try to mitigate them. 

The decision will be made at the end of the discussion with the Prime Minister.” On the other hand, “Walla News” quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying, “We cannot accept the demand to end the war.” The site also mentioned Israeli objection to the demand for the release of 1500 Palestinian prisoners, including those sentenced to life imprisonment. Israel initiated its military attack on Gaza after Palestinian militants killed 1200 people and captured 253 hostages from southern Israel on October 7th. 

Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 27,585 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in the Israeli military campaign, with fears that thousands are buried under the rubble. Hamas‘s response comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken began a visit to Israel focusing on the prisoner exchange deal and ceasefire in Gaza. 

Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the US State Department, tweeted on “X” platform, “Today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog and other government officials,” adding that the meetings are “to discuss efforts to ensure the release of the hostages held by Hamas and the importance of ensuring peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians alike.” 

Israel is the fourth stop on his tour, which has so far included Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Egypt, with a later visit planned to the West Bank before concluding his tour on Thursday. This marks the fifth visit by the US Secretary of State to Israel since the start of the war on October 7th last year. In addition to the prisoner exchange and ceasefire, his meetings will also address developments on the Israeli-Lebanese borders. In this context, the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation stated that Blinken will also meet separately with Israeli Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi in Tel Aviv. 

On Tuesday, the Israeli army announced the killing of several hostages held by Hamas and its allies, informing the hostages’ families. Army spokesperson Daniella Hagari said in a press conference, “We have informed 31 families that their loved ones, who are hostages, have not returned alive, and we confirmed their deaths.” She added, “For the rest of the families, we provided all verified information available to us about their fate and condition. We continue to work to create conditions for the return of all hostages to their homes.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, The New York Times cited a secret Israeli assessment stating that 32 hostages had died since or during Hamas‘s attack on Israel on October 7th. It also quoted four unnamed Israeli military officers stating that there is an evaluation of unconfirmed evidence of the deaths of at least 20 more hostages. Meanwhile, clashes continue in the city of Khan Yunis. 

The Israeli army stated today, Wednesday, that its forces killed dozens of Palestinian militants in the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza during the past twenty-four hours. The statement mentioned that soldiers also found large quantities of weapons and discovered more tunnels in the area.

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