Hamas agrees to US-backed ceasefire, prisoner release

Hamas agreed on Saturday to a U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal with Israel to free hostages after dropping its most stringent demand: that the Jewish state pledge to end the nine-month war in Gaza once and for all, a Hamas and Egyptian official said.

But the deal came with a major hitch: The Iran-backed terror group is now demanding “written guarantees” that mediators will continue to negotiate a permanent truce, once the first phase of the plan goes into effect, according to a Hamas representative. He said.

Hamas demands that the ceasefire agreement include “written guarantees” that negotiations toward a permanent ceasefire can continue indefinitely, which could prolong the release of the hostages. Getty Images

A Hamas official said Hamas gave its initial approval to the proposal after receiving “verbal pledges and guarantees” from Egyptian and Qatari mediators that fighting would not resume after Israel received the hostages and that the two sides would continue negotiating toward a permanent truce.

“Now we want these guarantees on paper,” the Hamas official said.

The head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, traveled to Doha on Friday, where he met with Qatari mediators and rejected a request for a written commitment regarding the second phase of the ceasefire agreement, according to the Axios website. Reported.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to send his country’s negotiators to Doha next week for follow-up talks, but his office stressed that “gaps between the parties” remain. CIA Director William Burns is also heading to Doha to join the talks. Axios reported.

The proposal now on the table calls for Hamas to release women, children and wounded hostages in exchange for Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners over an initial six-week period. The plan also calls for Israeli forces to withdraw from populated areas of Gaza and allow people to return to their homes in the northern parts of the Strip during this period.

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In the second stage, Hamas will release all remaining men it holds – both civilians and soldiers – in exchange for Israel releasing a number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The exchanges will not take place until a “sustainable calm” is in place and all Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza.

The third stage includes returning the remains of the hostages who died in captivity to Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has warned that “gaps” between Israel and Hamas remain in a ceasefire proposal being discussed. POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The plan received support from the families of many of the hostages during their weekly marches in cities across Israel on Saturday.

Einav Zangawker, whose son Matan was held hostage, said: The Times of Israel For the first time in months she feels hopeful that she will be able to hug her son again.

She stressed that the opportunity to reach an agreement cannot be missed, and directed a message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “We have seen how deals have been blown up time and again at the moment of truth. Don’t you dare break our hearts again.”

Hamas, led by Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in Gaza, will not release the male hostages until the second phase of the ceasefire agreement. dad

“Moving forward with the agreement is a moral step, the most urgent and important at this time, and we must do everything we can to prevent this crucial opportunity from being thwarted,” said pro-democracy protest group Hovshe Bartzino, one of the organizers of the weekly marches. According to the Times of Israel.

Israeli officials told Axios they are concerned that if Israel agrees to Hamas’s written demands, the terrorist group will be able to prolong discussions on the second phase of the deal indefinitely.

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The officials said it would then be difficult for Israel to resume fighting without being seen as a violation of the agreement, and that could lead the U.N. Security Council to impose a ceasefire without ensuring the release of all hostages.

However, Israeli sources have expressed optimism in recent days about a possible ceasefire agreement in the bloody war that erupted after Hamas launched a fierce attack on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and kidnapped 250 others.

An official familiar with the talks told Reuters that Mossad officials told mediators in Doha that they were confident that the Israeli cabinet would accept the ceasefire proposal on the table. Wall Street Journal.

A source in the Israeli negotiating team He said There was a legitimate chance of reaching an agreement with Hamas, compared to previous discussions where Hamas included demands that Israel said were impossible to accept.

With mail wires.

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