Hamas official: Permanent ceasefire not a condition for first phase of hostage deal

Hamas official Mohammad Nazzal says the terror group is not demanding that Israel agree to a ceasefire in the first stage of the hostage deal, but that it do so in subsequent stages.

If they indeed represent Hamas’s official position (Nazzal is not seen to be part of Hamas’s inner circle of decision-makers), the remarks to the Saudi-owned Asharq News would ostensibly mark a slight shift.

To date, Hamas has publicly insisted that it will not agree to release the hostages for anything less than a permanent ceasefire and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

“There must be a permanent ceasefire sooner or later, but it does not have to be in the first stage,” Nazzal tells Asharq.

He explains that the negotiating teams have drafted a framework in which the hostage deal would be implemented in phases, with the second and third stages far from being ironed out yet.

Nazzal indicates that by the end of the second or third stages of the deal, Israel would have to agree to a permanent ceasefire and withdraw its forces from the Strip.

“They can begin to position themselves outside large residential areas (during the first stage), but after that they must leave the Strip,” he says.

If there is no return to fighting between the various phases of the deal, it does not seem like there would be a practical implication of the stance explained by Nazzal.

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