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Hamas clears way for possible Gaza ceasefire after dropping key demand

Hamas has approved a US-backed proposal for a phased ceasefire in Gaza, paving the way for a halt in fighting.

The militant group dropped a key demand that Israel commits to a complete end to the war, accepting a lesser condition that negotiations to achieve that aim would begin during an initial six-week phase.

Two officials, one from Hamas, and one from Egypt, said the first phase would include a ā€œfull and completeā€ six-week ceasefire, according to Associated Press.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 38,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials, sinceĀ HamasĀ attacked southern Israeli cities on 7 October, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostages, according to official Israeli figures.

The sides have all warned that a deal has not been guaranteed.

The dealā€™s first phase would include the release of a number of hostages still in Gaza, including women, the elderly and wounded, while hundreds of Palestinian prisoners would also be freed.

Displaced Palestinians are playing football next to their tents in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas. (Photo by Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Displaced Palestinians playing football next to their tents in Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip (Photo: Majdi Fathi/NurPhoto)

Israeli forces would also withdraw from densely populated parts of Gaza during the initial, 42-day-long period, allowing displaced people to return to their homes in the north of Gaza.

Hamas, Israel and mediators would negotiate the terms of a second phase during the first phase, which could lead to the release of the remaining male hostages, including civilians and soldiers.

Israel would, in exchange, release additional Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

A third phase would include the return of the remaining hostages, including the bodies of dead hostages, and the start of a long-term reconstruction project.

The deal does however still have some barriers. Hamas, the sources said, wants ā€œwritten guaranteesā€ that Israel will negotiate a permanent ceasefire deal once the first phase comes into effect.

The Hamas representative said it had received ā€œverbal commitments and guaranteesā€ that the war would not resume and that negotiations will continue, which led to its approval.

Hamas now wants those guarantees on paper.

The deal would also include around 600 trucks of humanitarian aid going into Gaza daily, with around half going to the north side, which has been particularly hard-hit by food shortages.

50 of those trucks will carry fuel.

The office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, did not respond to APā€™s requests for comment. Washington did not provide an immediate comment.

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