After nearly 18 weeks of fighting, Israel and Hamas appear to be inching towards a ceasefire agreement that would pause the conflict in Gaza. However, significant gaps still remain around central issues like a prisoner swap and reconstruction funds.
Ongoing Negotiations in Multiple Locations
Talks mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the United States are currently taking place in multiple locations between Israeli, Hamas and other regional officials to try to broker a limited truce.
CIA Director William Burns even made a rare visit to Paris over the weekend for discussions with leaders from Israel, Egypt and Qatar. His participation signals the Biden administration’s deep involvement in trying to reach a deal.
According to inside sources, a framework agreement has been drafted that would see:
- An immediate two-month ceasefire in Gaza
- The release of two Israeli civilians held by Hamas
- The allowance of aid and reconstruction funds into Gaza
Key Figures Involved in Talks:
|U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs
|Israeli Government Minister
|Top Palestinian Authority Official
|Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary General
However, final approval from Hamas’ political chief Ismail Haniyeh is still pending as key differences remain around Hamas’ demands.
Hamas Pushing for Wider Prisoner Swap
One major sticking point involves the scope of any prisoner release.
While Israel has only agreed to free two civilians – Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – who crossed separately into Gaza in 2014-2015 and have been held captive ever since, Hamas is continuing to push for a wider swap.
They still want hundreds of Palestinians freed from Israeli jails in exchange for releasing the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in 2014 – Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Hamas is also demanding Israel releases all Palestinian prisoners who were rearrested after the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner exchange, which saw over 1,000 Palestinians freed.
An unnamed Hamas official directly tied approving the current limited truce deal to progress on negotiating a broader prisoner trade:
“We presented a clear position … that the fuel and electricity crises in Gaza must be dealt with comprehensively, not partially, and the 11 years of siege must be lifted from the Strip in exchange for a prisoner swap deal.”
Billions Needed to Rebuild Gaza
The other key issue still unresolved relates to allowing foreign aid and reconstruction materials back into Gaza to help rebuild after nearly five months of Israeli bombing.
An estimated $2-4 billion is believed necessary just to repair infrastructure damage like roads, schools and hospitals demolished during what has become the longest war ever between Israel and Hamas.
However, Israeli concerns about reconstruction supplies being diverted by Hamas for military means has repeatedly delayed agreement around reconstruction efforts.
In a TV interview on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated this position:
“We are not prepared to enable Hamas to rebuild its military machine. If there is a ceasefire, it must be on condition that Israeli interests are guaranteed.”
In an effort to alleviate these worries, Western diplomats have floated restricting reconstruction to specific approved projects using tightly-controlled mechanisms.
But it’s unclear if Israel will accept these assurances as previous attempts to rebuild Gaza post-conflict have suffered from delays and limitations.
Ongoing Violence Despite Talks
Even as negotiations slowly proceed, violence has still flared up across Israel and Palestine.
Over the weekend, undercover Israeli forces stormed a hospital in Jenin and killed 3 Palestinian gunmen. In response, Palestinian militants fired rockets at Israeli cities and Israel conducted air strikes targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad infrastructure in Gaza.
On Monday, three American service members were also killed in a rare drone attack claimed by an Iranian-backed militia in Jordan. It was the first deadly strike against US forces since the Gaza war erupted nearly five months ago.
This continuing unrest highlights that even if a temporary truce is arranged, the fundamental tensions driving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remain unresolved.
What Comes Next?
With significant gaps still left around central issues like prisoners and reconstruction, the ceasefire talks could still collapse.
If Hamas rejects the current proposed framework agreement, there is fear violence could spiral as Israeli officials have threatened even harsher military action if rocket fire resumes.
However, with growing international pressure and both sides eager to pause fighting, there is hope a limited deal can be reached soon.
CIA Director Burns has reportedly told allies the agreement could be finalized as early as next week. The conciliatory public rhetoric coming from Israeli and Hamas leaders also hints they may be ready for a temporary reprieve.
But unless the core disputes around Israeli restrictions on Gaza and Palestinians detained in Israeli jails can be addressed, even if fighting stops now, the Israel-Hamas war will inevitably resume again.
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.