Cease-Fire Hope: Hamas Approves U.S.-Backed Proposal for Gaza War End, with Conditions

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza – In a significant development, Hamas has tentatively approved a phased cease-fire proposal backed by the United States in Gaza. This move marks a shift as Hamas dropped a crucial demand for Israel to commit to an immediate and complete end to the conflict, according to a Hamas official and an Egyptian official on Saturday.

The potential compromise by Hamas, which initiated the conflict with an attack on Israel in early October, could signal the beginning of a temporary halt in hostilities since November. This initial step could pave the way for further negotiations aimed at ending the devastating nine-month-long conflict. However, all parties involved remain cautious as a final agreement is far from guaranteed.

Within Gaza, reports emerged of an Israeli airstrike on a school-turned-shelter in the Nuseirat refugee camp, resulting in the tragic death of at least 16 individuals and injuring around 50 others. Among the casualties were children. Israel’s military has indicated that they are investigating the incident.

Sources familiar with the ongoing talks revealed that the phased approach proposed by the United States would commence with a complete six-week cease-fire. During this period, vulnerable individuals such as the elderly, sick, and women held captive would be released in exchange for the freedom of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would also withdraw from densely populated areas in Gaza, allowing displaced individuals to return home to northern Gaza.

Over the 42-day cease-fire period, negotiations would continue to advance the second phase of the agreement. This stage would involve further releases of Palestinian prisoners by Israel in exchange for potential concessions related to the remaining male hostages, both civilian and military. The third phase would focus on the return of any remaining captives, including deceased individuals, and the commencement of a long-term reconstruction effort.

Despite the initial approval, Hamas insists on receiving written assurances from intermediaries regarding Israel’s commitment to ongoing negotiations for a permanent cease-fire once the first phase is implemented. According to a Hamas representative, the group’s endorsement was based on verbal promises from mediators to prevent a resumption of hostilities and ensure continuous discussions until a lasting cease-fire agreement is reached.

Months of intermittent cease-fire discussions have faltered primarily due to Hamas’s insistence on including a definitive end to the conflict in any agreement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on the other hand, has expressed willingness to pause the fighting temporarily until achieving specific objectives, such as undermining Hamas’s military capabilities, dismantling its governance structure, and securing the release of all hostages held by the group.

Further complicating the negotiations, Hamas has raised concerns about a potential resumption of hostilities by Israel once the prisoners are released. Conversely, Israeli officials fear that Hamas may prolong the talks indefinitely under the initial cease-fire without fully honoring the commitment to release all hostages. Netanyahu’s office has not responded to requests for comments, and Washington has yet to issue a statement on the latest developments.

Despite the challenging road ahead, families of hostages expressed a glimmer of hope, calling on Netanyahu to honor any potential agreement reached. The conflict in Gaza erupted following an attack by Hamas in October, resulting in significant loss of life and the abduction of numerous individuals. The military campaign launched by Israel has brought about widespread devastation, with tens of thousands of casualties reported, further exacerbating an already dire humanitarian crisis in the region. efforts to alleviate the suffering by allowing the entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza.Residents in Gaza continue to endure the dire consequences of the conflict, with a resident from Jabaliya refugee camp highlighting the severe challenges faced by the community. Amidst ongoing airstrikes and casualties, the prospects of a lasting peace remain uncertain as parties involved navigate a complex and delicate negotiation process.