PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Hamas is reviewing plans for a three-stage truce with Israel which foresee a weeks-long halt to the Gaza war, a source in the Palestinian group told AFP today.
The Islamist movement said earlier this week it was mulling proposals drawn up by mediators in Paris for a second truce nearly four months since the war began.
While a November pause to the fighting lasted a week, the latest accord aims to pave the way for an initial six-week halt to the fighting.
Over that period Israel will release between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners who are not deemed high-security detainees, in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages held in Gaza, the Hamas source close to Egyptian and Qatari mediators said.
Only “women, children, and sick men over 60” who are captive in Gaza will be freed at this stage, the Hamas source told AFP, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.
Palestinian fighters seized about 250 hostages during Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel. The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.
Israel says 132 of the hostages remain in Gaza including at least 29 people believed to have been killed.
Relentless bombardment by Israel and a ground invasion has killed at least 26,900 people in Gaza since then, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The war has displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s population of 2.4 million and prompted the United Nations to warn famine is imminent.
Under the new agreement, aid deliveries would be boosted with the entry of 200 to 300 trucks per day.
“The first stage includes negotiations around the withdrawal of Israeli forces and enabling the return of displaced people to Gaza (City) and the north of the strip,” the source said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday ruled out pulling Israel’s armed forces from Gaza.
If the ceasefire lasts, a second stage would see Israeli reservist soldiers released from captivity in exchange for an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.
Other soldiers and officers would subsequently be freed, the source said, once more in tandem with the release of Palestinians held in Israel.
The last issues addressed by the deal pertain to an exchange of bodies by the two sides, as well as the control of Gaza border crossings and rebuilding the shattered territory.
Egypt and Qatar are set to serve as mediators, in coordination with the US and France, the Hamas source added.