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March 4, 2024

Israel and Hamas Move Closer to Ceasefire Deal Amid Warnings Over Gaza Children

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Feb 3, 2024

Talks in Paris See Progress Towards Truce and Hostage Swap

Representatives from Israel, Hamas, Egypt, Qatar and the United States met in Paris this week for indirect negotiations aimed at securing a ceasefire agreement and hostage swap between Israel and Hamas. The talks saw progress, with a draft proposal being shared with Hamas leaders for their response.

The current wave of conflict erupted in late December when Israel launched airstrikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks from the territory. What began as tit-for-tat exchanges has escalated over the past five weeks into a devastating war, with nearly 3000 Palestinians killed and tens of thousands wounded. Israel has seen over 50 deaths.

International mediators are urgently working towards a ceasefire and prisoner exchange deal to halt the mounting casualties. The draft agreement proposes a gradual easing of the blockade on Gaza in exchange for a long-term ceasefire. It also includes a hostage swap to secure the release of two Israeli civilians held by Hamas in Gaza, as well as the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in action in 2014.

Ceasefire Deal Hinges On Hamas Response

Hamas leaders were reviewing the proposal this week and were expected to provide a response soon. But divisions within the Hamas leadership over the deal terms have emerged as a sticking point.

Some Hamas hardliners reportedly oppose central aspects of the agreement, particularly the restrictions that would remain in place on Gaza. However, other influential figures insist Hamas cannot continue to rule Gaza while resisting a truce deal endorsed by Qatar and Egypt.

Doha has been pivotal in the negotiations, leveraging its ties with Hamas. Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said while the talks were making headway, he warned tensions in the region remained high.

US President Joe Biden dispatched CIA Director William Burns to Paris to engage directly in the mediation. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was ready to provide aid for reconstruction efforts in Gaza if the ceasefire terms held.

Israel Strikes Hospital in West Bank, Killing Child

While the negotiations continued, Israel carried out deadly strikes across the occupied Palestinian territories over the past week. A raid on a hospital complex in Jenin in the West Bank killed a 12-year old boy and prompted international condemnation.

Palestinian officials said the attack violated international law protections for medical facilities. UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply shocked and distressed” by the strike.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said the hospital entrance had been used by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants. The IDF published footage showing two militants riding a motorcycle, claiming they were transporting explosives to carry out an imminent attack on Israeli targets.

Truce Efforts Buoyed by Dismay Over Mounting Child Casualties

The urgency around securing a ceasefire has mounted amid distress over the devastating impact on children in Gaza. More than 150 Palestinian children have been killed so far, with over 1000 injured.

Footage of lifeless Palestinian children being pulled from rubble have horrified international observers. Over 75,000 children have been displaced by the Israeli bombing campaign that has battered Gaza’s infrastructure.

Save the Children warned this week that Gazan children faced “a physical and mental health catastrophe” with the territory’s healthcare system overwhelmed. It follows a 2020 Human Rights Watch report accusing Israel of committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

While Israeli public opinion largely backs the military campaign, there are signs of shifting attitudes. Some Israeli media commentary lamented the crisis and urged the government to pursue the truce deal.

“The loser here is humanity,” said one pundit on French TV. “We’re losing sight of norms in place since WWII which govern human relationships.”

Prisoner Exchange Previous Flashpoint

Prisoner swaps have proven a flashpoint in previous conflicts between the sworn enemies. The 2014 Gaza war erupted after peace talks collapsed over an impasse on releases.

Hamas is demanding Israel free hundreds of Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons, many without charge. High profile cases include Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian lawmaker with the radical PFLP group, and Islamic Jihad leader Bassam al-Saadi.

Israel is resisting mass prisoner releases, though indications suggest it may agree to free some detainees as part of an exchange. But Israeli media reported this week that Hamas was insisting on 150 releases for each Israeli hostage.

Far-right Israeli politicians have pressed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to resist concessions around prisoner releases. But the Israeli leader faces growing calls domestically to alleviate suffering in Gaza and protect communities bordering the territory.

Timeline of Key Events

  • December 2023 – Clashes erupt in West Bank and Gaza border area
  • 28 December – Israel launches deadly Gaza airstrikes after rockets fired
  • Early January – Conflict descends into war as casualties mount
  • Mid January – Indirect talks open in Cairo between parties
  • 29 January – US, Qatar engage directly with sides in Paris and Doha
  • 30 January – Draft ceasefire deal proposed to Hamas
  • 1 February – Hamas studies proposals amid leadership divisions
  • 2 February – Truce talks buoyed by dismay over child deaths
Date Key Developments
28 December 2023 Israel airstrikes on Gaza after rocket attacks
Early January 2024 War breaks out as clashes escalate
29 January 2024 US, Qatar join talks in Paris/Doha
1 February 2024 Hamas undecided on proposals

What Happens Next?

All eyes are now on the Hamas response and whether they accept the truce terms. If Hamas signs on, both sides would agree an initial limited ceasefire.

Israel would likely phase withdrawals of its forces around Gaza, enabling gradual humanitarian access. Restrictions on fishing zones and border crossings could also ease.

Prisoner releases would likely happen in coordinated phases once the ceasefire takes hold. But obstacles remain with issues like Hamas weapons demands not formally part of talks.

However if Hamas rejects the current deal outline, diplomats warn the cycle of retaliatory attacks could quickly reignite. That could see a bloody Israeli ground invasion of Gaza that would significantly worsen the crisis.

Much rests on Egypt’s ability to exert its clout over Hamas to agree to the proposals. The humanitarian stakes are perilously high, with Gazan healthcare and infrastructure already pushed past breaking point.

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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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