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International Efforts Gain Momentum for Gaza Ceasefire and Hostage Release

Photo : Reuters

Efforts to secure a ceasefire and hostage release in Gaza gained momentum on Friday as Hamas proposed revised terms for a deal, and Israel indicated negotiations would extend into next week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that the head of the Mossad had returned from initial talks in Doha, Qatar, with plans to continue negotiations. Gaps between the sides remain, according to Netanyahu's office, but there is optimism about reaching an agreement, contrasting with past challenges over Hamas conditions.

A Palestinian official involved in peace efforts said Hamas' latest proposal could pave the way for a framework agreement if accepted by Israel. Hamas reportedly dropped its demand for a permanent ceasefire as a precondition, opting instead to negotiate towards it over a six-week initial phase. However, Hamas rejected the idea of foreign forces in Gaza, underscoring opposition to international peacekeeping efforts.

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Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees, aligned with Hamas, echoed this sentiment, viewing any foreign presence in Gaza as occupation. The ongoing conflict, sparked by Hamas' assault on Israel last October, has claimed over 38,000 Palestinian lives and resulted in humanitarian crises and regional tensions, including border skirmishes with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In related developments, Hamas has indicated agreement with Hezbollah on a Gaza ceasefire proposal, potentially affecting Lebanon-Israel relations. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope for a "final ceasefire" soon, urging Western pressure on Israel to accept terms. However, far-right coalition partners of Netanyahu threatened to withdraw if the conflict ends before Hamas is significantly weakened, potentially destabilizing Israel's government.

The current proposal, responding to a US plan unveiled in May by President Joe Biden, involves releasing remaining hostages in Gaza and phased Israeli troop withdrawals, alongside Palestinian prisoner releases and Gaza's reconstruction. Israeli delegates recently discussed these details in Egypt, with responses pending further talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

The latest violence saw Israeli airstrikes killing 15 Palestinians in northern and southern Gaza, including two journalists, while seven Palestinians died in a military operation in Jenin, West Bank. Gazans, desperate for aid amid ongoing hardships, expressed cautious hope for renewed negotiations following sporadic truces in the past.

"Ibtisam Al-Athamna, displaced nine times during the conflict, encapsulated the weary sentiment in Gaza: "We live with constant uncertainty, knowing death could come at any moment."

July 6, 2024 3:19 p.m. 493

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