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Ceasefire Optimism Grows: Israel to Resume Stalled Gaza Negotiations

Photo : Reuters

Efforts towards a ceasefire and the release of hostages in Gaza gained momentum on Friday following a revised proposal from Hamas regarding the terms of a potential deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured U.S. President Joe Biden of Israel's commitment to sending a delegation to resume negotiations. An Israeli official disclosed that the delegation would be led by the head of Mossad.

Speaking anonymously, a member of Israel's negotiating team expressed optimism about reaching an agreement after Hamas submitted its revised proposal on Wednesday. The specifics of Hamas' proposal were not disclosed, but it was described as a significant breakthrough.

The response from Israel, conveyed through mediators, marked a departure from previous instances during the nearly nine-month conflict in Gaza, where Israel had rejected conditions set by Hamas. A Palestinian official involved in the peace efforts suggested that Hamas' latest proposal could pave the way for a framework agreement if accepted by Israel.

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According to the official, Hamas no longer insists on Israel committing to a permanent ceasefire before the agreement is signed. Instead, negotiations could continue towards achieving a permanent ceasefire within an initial six-week phase. Should further time be required to finalize the agreement, both sides would agree not to resume hostilities until then.

Hamas' longstanding demands for any deal include ending the conflict, a complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages. Israel has maintained its stance of only accepting temporary ceasefires until Hamas, which governs Gaza, is neutralized.

Egyptian sources acknowledged a shift in positions but noted that the core issue of committing to a permanent ceasefire remained unresolved. The conflict has resulted in severe humanitarian crises in Gaza and heightened tensions in the region, including frequent exchanges of fire on Israel's northern border with Hezbollah, backed by Iran.

Hezbollah reported a meeting between its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, and a senior Hamas official, Khalil Al-Hayya, to discuss developments in Gaza, though details were not disclosed.

The White House confirmed Biden and Netanyahu's discussion on Hamas' response and welcomed Israel's decision to restart negotiations. An Israeli negotiator cautiously expressed optimism about the prospect of implementing a deal but warned of potential political obstacles.

In Israel, far-right coalition partners have hinted at withdrawing from the government if the conflict ends before Hamas is dismantled, a move that could jeopardize Netanyahu's leadership.

The proposed deal, publicly announced by Biden in May, outlines the phased release of approximately 120 hostages held in Gaza, accompanied by a ceasefire. It includes the gradual withdrawal of Israeli forces over two phases, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and eventual steps towards Gaza's reconstruction and the return of deceased hostages' remains.

Previous mediation efforts to end the Gaza conflict were spearheaded by Egypt and Qatar, with negotiations held in both countries.

Recent clashes in Gaza saw Israeli forces entering Rafah's Al-Nasser neighborhood to dismantle remaining Hamas battalions. An Israeli airstrike in Jabalia refugee camp resulted in the deaths of five Palestinians, including three children, as reported by Gaza medics.

July 5, 2024 4:41 p.m. 439

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