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Israel and Hamas urged to accept three phase ceasefire deal

Israel and Hamas have been urged to “stop haggling” and accept a ceasefire proposal to end the fighting in Gaza, with the US saying a plan will be released in the coming weeks on the post-war governance of the occupied Palestinian territory.

Hamas has responded to the US-backed proposal that was submitted almost two weeks ago, saying it has made “amendments” to the deal.

While it is unclear what changes Hamas has made, an Israeli official told the Times of Israel that the group’s response “changed all of the main and most meaningful parameters”, which they said amounted to a rejection of the proposal.

Michael Milshtein, a former head of intelligence on Palestinian affairs for the Israel Defence Forces and head of the Palestinian Studies Forum at Tel Aviv University, said Hamas has signalled that it accepts the proposal in principle but is demanding a “clear commitment [for] the end of the war”.

The three-stage ceasefire proposal publicly endorsed by US President Joe Biden on 31 May envisions a phased release of Israeli hostages in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israel, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war.

What is the latest ceasefire proposal?

Phase one of the proposals begins with a six-week ceasefire and the release of some hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas and Palestinian civilians would be allowed to return to their homes, with the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance “at scale throughout the Gaza Strip”. Mr Biden said 600 trucks of aid would enter Gaza every day during this period.

Phase two will see negotiations begin for “a permanent end to hostilities, in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces” from the enclave.

Phase three would launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families”.

Mr Biden said at the time that the proposal was an Israeli initiative. While the US says Israel has accepted the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has given conflicting statements, saying his country is still intent on destroying Hamas.

His far-right coalition allies have rejected the proposal and have threatened to bring down Mr Netanyahu’s government if he ends the war leaving Hamas intact. But the Israeli leader is also under mounting pressure to accept a deal to bring the hostages back.

“The main problem for both parties is the definition about the end of the war,” Dr Milshtein told i. “I assess that there is a possibility to arrive to an agreed version which will satisfy both Israel and Hamas.

“Otherwise there are no options, other than ongoing war which will not bring [Israel] closer to the two strategic goals: erasure of Hamas’s governmental and military capabilities and the release of all hostages.”

Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani (R) shakes hands with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a joint press conference in Doha on June 12, 2024. (Photo by Ibraheem AL-OMARI / POOL / AFP) (Photo by IBRAHEEM AL-OMARI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken with Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim al-Thani during a joint press conference in Doha (Photo: Ibraheem al-Omari/AFP)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is touring the Middle East for an eighth time since the war started, said Hamas’s response included some amendments that are not workable, but declined to say what specific changes the group was seeking.

“Hamas could have answered with a single word – ‘yes’. Instead, Hamas waited nearly two weeks and then proposed more changes, a number of which go beyond positions that had previously taken and accepted,” he said on Wednesday, adding that the US and fellow mediators Qatar and Egypt will keep trying to “close this deal”.

“It’s time for the haggling to stop and the ceasefire to start,” he said. “Israel accepted the proposal as it is, Hamas didn’t. It is clear what needs to happen.”

An official briefed on the matter told Reuters that Hamas had proposed a new timeline for a permanent ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

This was echoed by Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha, who told the Lebanese news website El-Nashra that the “amendments” requested by the group aim to guarantee a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive withdrawal from Gaza, and that guarantees are required from the Israeli side in this regard.

Qatar’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Jassim al-Thani, said both Israel and Hamas have acted in ways that were “counterproductive to the [ceasefire] efforts”.

He pointed to Israel’s invasion of the southern Gazan city of Rafah and “contradicting statements from different Israeli officials”. He also emphasised the need for a “permanent solution” to the Gaza war rather than “temporary measures”.

The UK has backed the proposal, saying on Monday that it supports a two-state solution “with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and delivering security for both nations and the wider region”.

Mr Blinken said the US and its partners will release its plans for the post-war management of Gaza in the coming weeks, and that in order to have an enduring end to the war there must be planning for the “day after” completed “as soon as possible”.

He insisted that Hamas “cannot and will not be allowed to decide the future for this region”.

It remains unclear how Gaza will be governed and what role Israel will play in its future, nor are there indications of what will happen to the Philadelphi Corridor, the eight-mile strip of land between Gaza and Egypt which Israeli forces took complete control of last week.

Mr Netanyahu has resisted calls for “day after” planning for months, arguing that they are largely futile as long as Hamas is still in power in Gaza.

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