What we know so far about the draft Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal

What we know so far about the draft Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal

Agreements on fighting, hostage and prisoner releases and aid in Gaza are part of terms the two sides could sign up to

Emma Graham-Harrison in Jerusalem

Tue 27 Feb 2024 12.49 GMT

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The US president, Joe Biden, said he hoped a deal for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza and hostage release could be reached by next Monday, as negotiators for Israel and Hamas try to pin down the terms of a draft agreement.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Joe Biden

What do we know about the draft?

The framework for a halt to fighting was drawn up in Paris, at meetings with envoys from Qatar, the US and Egypt, and has now been presented to Hamas. It envisions a 40-day break in fighting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which will start around 10 March.

Israeli hostages would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and an increase of aid supplies into Gaza, as well as equipment and fuel to start rebuilding. Palestinian women, children and elderly people would be allowed to return to the north of the strip.

One reason for Biden’s optimism may have been Israel’s reported agreement to release high-profile Palestinian prisoners convicted of major terrorism charges as part of the deal. Under a US proposal, 15 of these prisoners would be exchanged for five female Israeli soldiers, the New York Times reported.

These releases would face heavy scrutiny in Israel, but the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is under heavy domestic pressure to do more to secure the release of hostages, which may nudge him towards compromise.

Hamas leaders too appear to be softening their stance. After a first ceasefire and hostage release deal collapsed at the start of December, the group has repeatedly said it would release remaining hostages only as part of a permanent truce.

The agreement drawn up in Paris envisages continuing talks for a long-term arrangement, but initially just a 40-day break in fighting.

What does it say?

The main terms of the draft deal, as reported by Reuters, are as follows:

 Ceasefire: Both sides would stop all military operations. Israel would move its troops away from densely populated areas and halt drone surveillance for eight hours every day.

 Hostage release: Hamas would release 40 Israeli hostages. Those set to be released include women, children and young adults under 19 years of age, people over 50 and the sick. Men of military age would not be covered in this deal.

 Prisoner release: In return, Israel would release 400 prisoners, in a ratio of 10 for every freed hostage. This is a much higher ratio than under the last ceasefire deal, when three prisoners were released for every freed hostage.

 Aid and reconstruction: Israel would allow 500 trucks a day of humanitarian aid into Gaza, along with 200,000 tents and 60,000 caravans to house the displaced.

Fuel and equipment to rebuild hospitals and bakeries would be allowed into Gaza and Hamas would promise not to use this to threaten Isreal.

Will the deal be agreed?

Despite signs both sides may be open to compromise, officials from Israel, Hamas and Qatar – a key intermediary in talks – said significant differences remained and a deal was still a long way off.

A Hamas official said Biden’s comments were “premature” and did not reflect the situation on the ground, Reuters reported. An Israeli website, Ynet, quoted senior Israeli officials saying they did not understand why Biden seemed so confident about the deal.

Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday said there had been no breakthrough, as Israel and Hamas could not reach agreement on the main issues, though he added the country was “upbeat and optimistic” about mediation prospects.

What happened to the last ceasefire deal?

A previous deal, in November 2023, lasted seven days before collapsing in acrimonious accusations of bad faith from both sides.

Under that agreement 105 civilians were released by Hamas, 81 of which were Israeli women and children. Hamas also released 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino.

Israel released 240 prisoners in exchange. Of those, 107 were children, 66 were 18-year-old teenage boys, and another teenager who had turned 19 in prison. The rest were women. Three-quarters had not been convicted of any crime.

We have all been profoundly shaken by recent events in Israel and Gaza. This latest conflict marks the start of a chapter that is likely to affect millions of lives, both in the Middle East and further afield, for years to come.

 

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/feb/27/what-we-know-so-far-about-the-draft-israel-hamas-ceasefire-deal

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