Lebanese report: Israel’s offer would see partial IDF pullback in 1st phase of deal

Egyptian mediators said to convey terms to Hamas: 33 hostages to be released in initial 40-day phase; all hostages ultimately to be freed, with provisions for sustained calm in Gaza

People walk by photographs of  people still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv. May 1, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
People walk by photographs of people still held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv. May 1, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A report Wednesday claimed to detail an Israeli proposal for a deal with Hamas that would see at least 33 hostages released over a 40-day truce and staged troop withdrawal from Gaza, as Jerusalem awaited an expected response from the Palestinian terror group to its offer.

The report by Lebanese outlet Al-Akhbar, the latest news organization to claim to offer details on the proposal, came after Egyptian mediators conveyed the text of Israel’s offer to a Hamas delegation in Cairo on Tuesday.

According to Al-Akhbar, the first stage of the deal presented to Hamas would last 40 days, and would include a staged withdrawal of Israeli troops from parts of the Strip to allow the movement of humanitarian aid and the return of civilians to their homes.

The deal would provide for 500 trucks, including 50 fuel trucks, to enter the Gaza Strip each day, and would include the delivery of supplies designed to rehabilitate the Strip. Half of the trucks each day would be earmarked for northern Gaza, which has been largely cut off from the aid entering via the south of the enclave since the start of Israel’s ground operation.

At the same time, Israel would cease aerial surveillance of the Strip for eight hours a day, or 10 hours on days hostages are released.

In return, Hamas would be required to release at least 33 living captives — female civilians and soldiers, children under the age of 19, the elderly, the sick and the wounded. On day seven of the deal, Hamas would provide the names of all other living hostages beyond the 33.

Previous offers rejected by Hamas had included the demand for 40 hostages to be released under the same criteria, but this number was lowered to 33 during the most recent round of negotiations after Israel reportedly assessed that some of the previously sought 40 hostages had died in Hamas captivity.

Protesters block Begin Road in front of the Kirya IDF Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv, urging a deal for the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, April 30, 2024 (Danor Aharon / Pro-Democracy Protest Movement)

For every female civilian and child released during this phase of the deal, Israel would free 20 minors and female Palestinian security prisoners, Al-Akhbar claimed. For every sick, elderly and injured hostage released, Israel would free 20 prisoners over 50 who are also sick and injured, as long as they are not serving a sentence of over 10 years.

Finally, for every female soldier released during the first phase of the deal, Israel would free 20 Palestinian security prisoners serving a life sentence, and another 20 serving 10 years at most. The prisoners would be released either to Gaza or abroad.

Should Hamas agree to the offer, it will be allowed to provide a list of up to 20 security prisoners that it wants Israel to release during the first 40-day phase of the deal, although Israel will retain a veto.

According to the report, Hamas would release three captive women on the first day that the agreement comes into effect, and then release three more hostages every three days, until the 33rd day, with Israel releasing the corresponding ratio of Palestinian security prisoners at the same time.

On the 34th day of the deal, Hamas would be required to provide a list of all remaining hostages who fit the criteria for release.

The initial 40-day truce could then be extended, with the agreement of both parties, in exchange for the release of additional hostages.

A similar plan was implemented during a truce in late November — the only one of the war — which had originally only been expected to last for four days but was extended to seven, bringing about the release of 105 hostages in total.

FILE: Members of the Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad release Israeli hostages to the Red Cross, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, November 28, 2023. (Flash90)

As per the reported text of the offer drawn up in Egypt, indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas would begin anew on the 16th day of the truce, to set out an arrangement to restore sustainable calm to Gaza over the second and third stages of the deal.

As such, the exact details of the latter two stages have yet to be defined and were only broadly outlined in the Lebanese outlet’s report.

According to the report, the second stage of the deal would last 42 days and involve completing the agreed-upon arrangements for sustainable calm. In exchange, Hamas would be required to release the remaining Israeli male civilians and soldiers, in exchange for a yet-to-be-specified number of Palestinian security prisoners, and the full withdrawal of IDF troops from Gaza.

The third and final stage of the deal would again last 42 days and Hamas would reportedly be required to hand over the bodies of those who were killed on October 7 or died in captivity, in exchange for bodies of Palestinian security prisoners who died in Israeli custody.

War erupted on October 7 when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists burst into southern Israel in a shock attack,  overrunning military posts and carrying out brutal massacres in multiple Israeli communities. Some 1,200 people were killed in the onslaught and 253 people were taken hostage.

Israel has estimated that 129 of the hostages seized on October 7 remain in Gaza — not all of them alive — following the November truce. Four hostages were released prior to that, and three were rescued alive by troops. The bodies of 12 hostages have also been recovered, including three mistakenly killed by the military. The IDF has also confirmed the deaths of 34 of those still in captivity.

In addition to the hostages seized on October 7, Hamas has also been holding the bodies of fallen IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin since 2014, as well as two Israeli civilians, Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, who are both thought to be alive after entering the Strip of their own accord in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

The destruction in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 19, 2024. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

With regard to the terror group’s capabilities, the deal offered via Egypt stipulated that Hamas must refrain from reconstructing military infrastructure or facilities in the future, and none of the equipment or raw material imported for the rehabilitation of Gaza may be used for military purposes.

The text does not specify, however, how this would be enforced.

The rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip would begin during the first phase of the deal, starting with the restoration of Gaza’s roads, electricity, water, sanitation and communication infrastructure.

Preparations for a 5-year reconstruction plan for Gaza’s homes and civilian infrastructure would be completed during the second phase of the deal, and construction would begin in the third stage.

The Lebanese report largely dovetailed with previous reports on the details of the possible deal, including the staged structure of the agreement and the requirement for talks aimed at ending the war and allowing Gazan civilians to return to the north of the country, both key Hamas demands.

Speaking to the Times of Israel on Tuesday, an Israeli official said one of the timelines under discussion is a 10-week pause in fighting in exchange for 33 living hostages.

Israel was also said to be examining the possibility that Egypt, not Israel, would be responsible for carrying out security checks for Gazans moving back to the north of the Strip.

An Israeli official told The Times of Israel on Tuesday that Israel was expecting a Hamas response to its offer by Wednesday evening

Lazar Berman and agencies contributed to this report.

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