Hamas has confirmed that it is studying a three-phase proposal for a truce in Gaza, while hardline members of the Israeli government have threatened to collapse the coalition if any deal is not to their liking.
The Palestinian group’s political leader Ismail Haniyeh confirmed on Tuesday that he is studying the proposal, thrashed out in Paris over the weekend, to halt the war and enable the exchange of Israeli and Palestinian prisoners.
Haniyeh said in a statement that the group is “open to discussing any serious and practical initiatives or ideas, provided that they lead to a comprehensive cessation of aggression”.
Hamas also said that the plan must ensure the “complete withdrawal of the occupation forces from the Gaza Strip”.
The group’s leadership, he said, had received an invitation to Cairo to reach an “integrated vision” on the framework agreement.
In a statement sent to Reuters, Hamas said the proposal involved three stages. The plan has been sent to Gaza to obtain the opinion of Hamas leaders there.
“The Hamas leadership will meet to discuss the paper and express its final opinion on it,” the statement said.
Sources told the news agency that the first phase would consist of a pause in fighting and the release of elderly, civilian women and children hostages.
Major deliveries of food and medicine to Gaza, facing a ruinous humanitarian crisis, would resume.
The second phase would see the releases of female Israeli soldiers and another increase in aid deliveries and restoration of utility services to Gaza. The third phase would see the release of the bodies of deceased Israeli troops in exchange for Palestinian prisoners freed, two sources said.
The Hamas statement said the second phase would also involve the release of male military recruits.
“Military operations on both sides will stop during the three stages,” it said. The number of Palestinian prisoners to be released is to be left to the negotiation process “at every stage, with the Israeli side preparing to release those with high sentences,” it said.
The ultimate aim of this phased approach is the end of the war and the release of male soldiers held captive in Gaza in exchange for Israel’s release of additional Palestinian prisoners held in jail.
If Hamas does agree to the framework proposal it could still take days or weeks to settle logistical details of the truce and the release of hostages and prisoners, an official told Reuters.
Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said the framework discussed in Paris is based on elements of an initial proposal made by Israel and a counterproposal made by Hamas.
“We tried to blend things together to come up with some sort of reasonable ground that brings everybody together,” he said at Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank on Monday.
He added that “good progress” was made on a possible deal during meetings between intelligence officials from Egypt, Israel and the United States over the weekend.
The Qatari prime minister noted that Hamas has previously demanded a permanent ceasefire as a precondition to enter negotiations. However, he suggested that there is hope its stance may have shifted.
“I believe we moved from that place to a place that potentially might lead to a ceasefire permanently in the future,” he said.
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad group in Gaza said it will not engage in any understandings regarding Israeli hostages without ensuring a comprehensive ceasefire and the withdrawal of the Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, the group’s secretary general Ziad al-Nakhala said in a statement on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said Israel would continue its war in Gaza until “absolute victory” over Hamas.
He ruled out releasing “thousands” of Palestinian prisoners as part of any deal to halt the fighting and said the army would not withdraw from Gaza.
“I would like to make it clear… We will not withdraw the IDF [army] from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” he said in an address at Eli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
Netanyahu is under significant pressure from the families of the remaining captives held by Hamas to reach a deal to secure their release.
Hamas killed at least 1,139 people in Israel and took about 240 captives on October 7, according to Israeli figures.
However, Netanyahu is also being pushed to continue the war by hardline coalition partners in his government.
Commenting on the reported truce negotiations earlier on Tuesday, far-right Israeli Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir appeared to suggest that a deal with Hamas would trigger a government collapse.
“Reckless deal = Government split,” Ben-Gvir wrote on X.
עסקה מופקרת = פירוק הממשלה
— איתמר בן גביר (@itamarbengvir) January 30, 2024
The national security minister is known for his inflammatory commentary on the conflict. However, his Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party is a major player in Israel’s ruling coalition.
Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoom, reporting from Tel Aviv, said anonymous Israeli officials confirmed that the government signed off to a deal that was presented to Hamas. This includes a pause in fighting and the release of Israeli captives in Gaza in exchange for thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
Jamjoom said that while right wing government members were against the deal, Yair Lapid, Israel’s opposition leader and former prime minister, said he would support the government if it meant bringing the captives homes.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was also expected to land in Israel on Saturday for his sixth trip to the region since the war started to discuss post-war scenarios in Gaza, Jamjoom reported.
The proposals were circulated to Hamas as fighting intensified in Gaza.
Heavy Israeli strikes and urban combat across the besieged enclave killed 128 more people overnight, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza.
An Israeli ‘hit squad’ also killed three men that it labelled as “terrorists” in an undercover operation at a hospital in the occupied West Bank.
“The world must put pressure on the occupation to stop these massacres and war crimes, including the policy of torture to which our people are exposed in the areas of the West Bank, executions and arrests,” said Haniyeh.
Amidst the uptick in fighting, Israel has charged that around a dozen staff of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) took part in the October 7 attack, leading key donor countries including the United States and Germany to suspend funding.
Haniyeh said that the decision of countries to suspend contributions was a “clear violation” of last week’s International Court of Justice interim ruling, which called for increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza.
Countries cutting aid support Israel’s “occupation through starvation and siege”, the Hamas chief asserted.