Cease-Fire Hope Rises in Middle East as Hamas Approves U.S.-Backed Proposal

In Gaza City, hopes for a cease-fire deal in the Middle East have been reignited after Hamas responded positively to a U.S.-backed proposal for a phased agreement in Gaza. The militant group, which instigated the conflict with an attack on Israel in early October, has reportedly shown initial approval of the cease-fire deal after dropping a key demand from Israel.

A senior U.S. official has stated that Hamas’ response to the proposal could provide a foundation for finalizing the deal. The potential compromise could mark the first pause in hostilities since November, paving the way for further discussions on bringing an end to the devastating nine-month conflict. However, caution remains as there is still no guarantee of a deal being reached.

According to two officials familiar with the negotiations, the phased deal proposed by Washington would involve a six-week complete cease-fire initially. This phase would involve the release of hostages, including women, elderly, and wounded individuals, in exchange for the release of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from densely populated areas in Gaza during this time, allowing displaced individuals to return to their homes in the northern region of Gaza.

Subsequent negotiations during this phase would focus on the release of remaining male hostages, both civilians and soldiers, with additional prisoner exchanges. The third phase would entail the return of any remaining hostages, including deceased captives, and the initiation of a long-term reconstruction project. Hamas has emphasized the need for written guarantees that Israel will commit to ongoing negotiations for a permanent cease-fire beyond the initial phase.

The approval from Hamas comes after receiving verbal commitments and assurances from mediators that the war will not resume and negotiations will continue until a lasting cease-fire is achieved. The group is now pushing for these guarantees to be formalized in writing. Additionally, the proposed deal includes provisions for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza daily, with a focus on the hard-hit northern area of the enclave.

Recent airstrikes in Rafah resulted in the death of four police officers, according to the Hamas-run Interior Ministry. Meanwhile, prayers were held for Palestinians killed in separate strikes in central Gaza. Ground fighting in Shijaiyah has forced thousands to flee to shelters, highlighting the urgent need for a lasting peace agreement. Amid ongoing negotiations and escalating violence, the path to a comprehensive cease-fire remains uncertain.