Hamas proposes hostage exchange in Gaza ceasefire plan

Samia Nakhoul |

Hamas has included a hostage/prisoner exchange in its latest proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza.
Hamas has included a hostage/prisoner exchange in its latest proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza.

Hamas has presented a Gaza ceasefire proposal to mediators and the US which includes the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for freedom for Palestinian prisoners, 100 of whom are serving life sentences.

In a proposal seen by Reuters, Hamas said the initial release of Israelis would include women, children, elderly and ill hostages in exchange for the release of 700 to 1000 Palestinian prisoners.

The release of Israeli “female recruits” is included.

Israeli hostage release
Margalit Mozes (centre) was among the Israeli hostages released during a ceasefire in November. (AP PHOTO)

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the new Hamas position was based on “unrealistic demands”.

His office said an update on the issue would be handed to the war cabinet and extended security cabinet on Friday.

Egypt and Qatar have been trying to narrow differences between Israel and Hamas over what a ceasefire should look like as a deepening humanitarian crisis has a quarter of the population in the battered Gaza Strip facing famine.

Qatari officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Egypt is seeking to reach a ceasefire in Gaza, ramp up aid deliveries to the Strip and allow for displaced Palestinians in the south and centre of the enclave to move to the north, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Friday.

“We are talking about reaching a ceasefire in Gaza, meaning a truce, providing the biggest quantity of aid,” he told Egypt’s police academy.

Sisi also warned against the dangers of an Israeli incursion into Rafah, on the border with Egypt.

Hamas said ceasefire negotiations had faltered in the past few weeks due to Netanyahu’s rejection of its demands, which include a permanent ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal from the strip, the return of the displaced in the south of the enclave to the centre and the north, and stepping up aid without restrictions.

In February, Hamas received a draft proposal from Gaza truce talks in Paris which included a 40-day pause in all military operations and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for Israeli hostages at a ratio of 10 to one – a similar ratio to the new ceasefire proposal.

Israel also rejected that draft proposal, citing its long-held goal of not ending the war until it destroyed Hamas. 

Hamas insists an agreement should end the war.

Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin Netanyahu’s office says the Hamas ceasefire proposal is based on “unrealistic demands”. (AP PHOTO)

According to the latest proposal, Hamas said a date for a permanent ceasefire would be agreed upon after the initial exchange of hostages and prisoners as well as a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

The group said all detainees from both sides would be released in a second stage of the plan.

The war was triggered by a Hamas-led attack on southern Israeli towns on October 7 that left 1200 people dead and 253 taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Since then, Israel’s air, sea and ground assault on Gaza has killed more than 31,000 people and wounded more than 71,500, according to Gaza health authorities. 

The conflict has spread to other parts of the volatile Middle East. 

Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah has frequently exchanged fire with Israel along the border.

Pro-Iranian armed groups in Iraq have attacked US forces in the country and Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have attacked shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show their solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.

Late on Thursday, Hamas said it presented to mediators a comprehensive vision of a truce based on stopping what it calls Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, providing relief and aid, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes, and the withdrawing of Israeli forces.

With the war now in its sixth month, the United Nations has warned that at least 576,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of famine and global pressure has been growing on Israel to allow more access for aid.