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May 29, 2024

Hamas Faces Critical Choice on Ceasefire Deal

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Feb 5, 2024

Hamas is facing mounting pressure to respond to a proposed ceasefire agreement presented in talks brokered by the United States and allies in Paris last week. The deal aims to end over three weeks of fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants that has left over 200 dead. However, some Hamas officials remain skeptical and are pushing for further concessions.

Background of the Conflict

Tensions erupted in early January when Israeli forces launched a raid in the West Bank to apprehend terror suspects. A gun battle broke out leading to the deaths of 10 Palestinians and injuries to 20 Israeli soldiers. Hamas responded by firing rockets from Gaza into southern Israeli communities. Israel retaliated with airstrikes targeting Hamas installations and combatants.

The violence quickly escalated into a full-blown war, with Hamas and other Gaza militant groups firing hundreds of rockets indiscriminately into Israel daily. Israel has conducted over 1500 airstrikes on Gaza, hitting terrorist bases, tunnels, weapon caches and also causing substantial civilian casualties. Attempts at early ceasefires failed to hold as both sides looked to gain leverage in eventual negotiations.

Key figures in 3 weeks of fighting
Palestinian deaths 225
Palestinian injuries 1800
Israeli deaths 12
Israeli injuries 250
Homes destroyed in Gaza 1500

International mediators led by the US have been attempting to broker a durable truce. US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and other officials met secretly with leaders from Israel, Egypt and Qatar in Paris last week to hammer out a proposal. Hamas officials also traveled to Cairo but have so far held off approving the deal.

Key Elements of Ceasefire Proposal

According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the ceasefire plan contains several key components:

  • Immediate halt to IDF military operations in Gaza and rocket attacks from Palestinian groups
  • Gradual withdrawal of Israeli ground forces surrounding Gaza over 2 weeks
  • Opening of crossings to allow entry of humanitarian supplies and fuel into Gaza
  • Release of over 100 Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, in exchange for 2 IDF hostages and remains of 2 Israeli soldiers killed in 2014

The prisoner swap is considered essential for Hamas to be able to sell the deal to its followers. Israel is demanding verifiable proof of life for the two hostages who Hamas has provided little information on so far.

Hamas officials have stated they cannot continue sustaining such high civilian losses and are facing internal dissent over the prolonged fighting. However, the group is still pressing for a complete Israeli pullout and return to status quo before recent incursions, which Israel rejects.

Qatari mediators have been attempting to bridge differences on reconstruction plans for Gaza and monitoring mechanisms before transferring significant funds. The US and Egypt prefer an oversight role for the Palestinian Authority rather than Hamas which took over Gaza by force in 2007. Israel also wants safeguards that cement and steel allowed into Gaza will not be diverted by militants to build tunnels and bunkers.

Mixed Response from Hamas Leadership

After an initial positive signal last week, Hamas has not yet formally consented to the truce package. Inside sources reveal a split among senior Hamas officials on accepting what’s on offer.

Political leader Ismail Haniyeh who is based outside Gaza in Qatar is said to be in favor of ending hostilities now and securing relief for battered civilians. However military wing chief Yahya Sinwar who directly oversees combat operations wants to extract further concessions from Israel before agreeing to halt fire.

There is pressure on Hamas to extract a deal soon as Gaza’s economy and infrastructure limps under growing shortages. Its misfired rockets have also killed 15 Palestinian civilians so far adding to public frustration. Israel too seems willing to limit objectives due to international criticism over civilian deaths and lack of progress subduing militants.

Hamas delegates are expected to convey their decision by tomorrow after internal discussions. Officials from Egypt, Qatar and the UN special coordinator are waiting in Cairo eager to seal an agreement after intense efforts by all parties.

Wider Geopolitical Impact

Brokering a Gaza ceasefire is an early foreign policy test for the new administration in the US. Securing the truce could balance ties between Israel and the Arab world at a turbulent time. Hostage talks also represent a rare diplomatic opening between arch-rivals Washington and Tehran who back opposing sides.

However failure to achieve peace risks inflaming tensions across the region and emboldening extremists. There are worries too about instability crossing into the West Bank or a resurgence of violence with Lebanon.

Most experts assess the current proposal offers a reasonable path ahead for Gaza. But given the fragility of alignments in the Middle East, uncertainty prevails on whether calmer heads will prevail to nurture the hopes of progress. For those suffering under nearly a month of bombardment, any return to normalcy not haunted by loss will still remain a distant dream either way.

What Next?

All eyes are currently centered on the Hamas leadership and their response. Their calculations will determine whether the violence persists or starts easing to make way for rebuilding.

If the ceasefire arrangement holds, attention will turn towards securing the prisoner exchange and implementing terms on the ground. There is hope cautious optimism on initial success could support more thorny indirect talks between Palestinian groups and Israel on sustaining calm.

However, the structural drivers of animosity and protecting group interests makes an enduring peace elusive. A descent back into open conflict and reprisals remains an ever-present danger as opposing sides frequently demonstrate. For Gaza’s residents it may only mean a brief respite before the next round in their long distressed history.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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