Explainer

Specifics of a deal Hamas says it accepts, and that Israel says does not meet its terms

Hamas proposal provides for release of 33 hostages ‘alive or dead’ in the 1st phase and a full IDF withdrawal from Gaza in the 2nd; differs in key aspects from Israeli-backed offer

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the Israeli government outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, May 4, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)
Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip and against the Israeli government outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, May 4, 2024. (Erik Marmor/Flash90)

The Gaza terror group Hamas said on Monday that it had agreed to a three-phase deal for a ceasefire and hostages-for-prisoners swap, although an Israeli official said soon after that the deal was not acceptable to Israel because the terms it had previously approved had been “softened.”

Hamas officials claimed Monday evening that the deal would yield an end to the war, whereas Israel has said repeatedly that it will not accept a deal that involves ending the war and that it fully intends to resume its campaign to destroy Hamas once any deal has been carried out.

The United States, which alongside Qatar and Egypt has played a mediation role in the talks, said it was studying the Hamas response and would discuss it with Middle East allies.

The specifics set out by Hamas on Monday (Arabic text here) differ in numerous regards from the reported terms of what the US hailed a week ago as an “extremely generous” Israeli offer.

Among the differences: The Hamas proposal would see the release of 33 Israeli hostages, alive or dead, whereas the Israeli text requires the release of 33 living hostages; the Hamas proposal removes the veto Israel demanded on the release of certain Palestinian security prisoners, and raises the number of Palestinian security prisoners to be freed; the Hamas proposal provides for the free movement of Gazans back to the north of the strip, without security checks as required by Israel to prevent Hamas gunmen returning.

The Hamas proposal also changes the timing of hostage releases within the phases, and some of the specifics on Israeli troop withdrawals. It also demands the release of all Palestinian security who were freed in the 2011 Shalit prisoner deal and have since been re-arrested.

Significantly, Hamas said on Monday night that it regards itself as having accepted terms for an end to the war, whereas both the Israeli-backed text and the Hamas response refer to restoring “sustainable calm.” In an introductory paragraph, however, the Hamas text says the “framework agreement aims for … a return to sustainable calm in a way that achieves a permanent ceasefire.”

Based on details announced so far by Hamas officials, a copy of the proposal and an official briefed on the talks, the deal that the terrorist group said it had agreed to includes the following:

Phase one:

• 42-day truce period.

• Hamas releases 33 Israeli hostages, alive or dead, in return for Israel releasing 30 minors and women security prisoners for each released Israeli hostage, based on lists provided by Hamas.

• Starting from the first day, the entry of intensive and sufficient quantities of humanitarian aid, relief materials, and fuel (600 trucks per day, including 50 fuel trucks, of which 300 are for the north), including the fuel necessary for operating the power plant, trade, and equipment needed for rubble removal, rehabilitation and operation of hospitals, health centers and bakeries in all areas of the Gaza Strip, and the continuation of this in all stages of the agreement.

• Hamas will release three Israeli hostages on the third day of the agreement, and then release three more hostages every seven days, prioritizing women if possible, including civilians and female soldiers.

• In the sixth week, Hamas will release all remaining civilian hostages covered by this phase. In exchange, Israel will release the agreed number of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, according to lists that will be provided by Hamas.

• Israel partially withdraws troops from Gaza and allows the free movement of Palestinians from south to north Gaza.

• Cessation of military flights over the Gaza Strip will take place for 10 hours per day, and 12 hours on the day of releasing the hostages and prisoners.

• On the third day after releasing the first Palestinian security prisoners, the Israeli forces will completely withdraw from al-Rashid Street in northern Gaza.

• On the 22nd day of the first phase, Israeli forces will withdraw from the center of the strip, east of Salah al-Din road, to an area near the Israeli border.

• The temporary cessation of mutual military operations, relief, providing shelter, withdrawal of forces, etc., will continue in the second phase until a sustainable calm (cessation of military and hostile operations) is declared.

Families and supporters of Israeli hostages held by Hamas in Gaza hold banners and flags during a protest calling for their return, outside a meeting between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and families of hostages in Tel Aviv, May 1, 2024. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Phase two:

• Another 42-day period that features an agreement to restore a “sustainable calm” to Gaza, language that an official briefed on the talks said Hamas and Israel had agreed to, in order to take discussion of a “permanent ceasefire” off the table.

• The complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

• Hamas’s release of all remaining living hostages, including some soldiers, in exchange for Israel releasing more Palestinian security prisoners from jail.

Phase three:

• The completion of exchanging bodies and starting the implementation of reconstruction according to the plan overseen by Qatar, Egypt, and the United Nations

• Ending the complete blockade on the Gaza Strip

• Start of the implementation of a 3-5 year plan for reconstruction of the Gaza Strip, including homes, civilian facilities and infrastructure, and compensation for all those affected, under the supervision of a number of countries and organizations including Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations.

Israel’s stance

Israel has consistently said it will not accept a deal that entails a permanent ceasefire, and that it will resume its military campaign after any truce-for-hostages deal, in order to complete its two declared war goals: freeing the hostages and destroying Hamas’s military and governance capabilities.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also said that Israel will ensure there can be no future terrorist threat to Israel from Gaza.

Netanyahu’s office said late Monday that the Hamas offer was far from meeting Israel’s essential requirements, but that it would send negotiators to continue talks with the US, Egyptian, and Qatari mediators.

On Tuesday, Netanyahu said in a video statement that the Hamas offer is “very far from Israel’s vital demands.”

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