Renewed Gaza Ceasefire and Hostage Negotiations Gain Momentum

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Renewed negotiations between Israel and Hamas raise hopes for a ceasefire and the release of hostages amid ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Efforts to establish a ceasefire and facilitate hostage releases in Gaza gained traction on Friday as Hamas revised its proposal for a deal, prompting Israel to resume previously stalled negotiations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed U.S. President Joe Biden of the decision on Thursday, announcing that Israel’s team, led by the head of the Mossad intelligence agency, would return to the negotiating table.

A member of Israel’s negotiating team, speaking anonymously, expressed optimism about the potential for an agreement, a stark contrast to Israel’s previous rejections of Hamas’ conditions throughout the nine-month conflict.

A Palestinian official involved in the peace efforts suggested that Hamas’ new proposal could lead to a framework agreement, as the militant group has relaxed its preconditions. Hamas no longer demands an immediate commitment to a permanent ceasefire, instead allowing negotiations to occur over a six-week period.

“Should the sides need more time to seal an agreement on a permanent ceasefire, the two sides should agree there would be no return to the fighting until they do that,” the Palestinian official told Reuters.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan expressed optimism, stating he hoped for a “final ceasefire” within days and called on Western nations to pressure Israel into accepting the proposed terms.

Regional Tensions and Diplomatic Efforts

The conflict, which began with a Hamas-led attack on Israel on October 7, has resulted in significant casualties and displacement. Gaza health authorities report over 38,000 Palestinian deaths due to the Israeli offensive, while Israel cites 1,200 deaths and over 250 hostages taken during the initial Hamas attack.

The conflict has exacerbated regional tensions, leading to exchanges of fire along Israel’s northern border with Hezbollah, an Iran-backed group in Lebanon. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah and Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya recently met to discuss the situation. A Hezbollah official indicated that their attacks would cease if a Gaza ceasefire is agreed upon.

“If there is a Gaza agreement, then from zero hour there will be a ceasefire in Lebanon,” the official told Reuters.

International and Domestic Responses

The White House welcomed Netanyahu’s decision to resume talks, with President Biden expressing support for efforts to finalize a deal. However, Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners have expressed concerns about ending the war without fully defeating Hamas, with some threatening to leave the government.

Israel’s Channel 7 News reported that Itamar Ben Gvir, a far-right coalition partner, accused security officials of resuming talks without his consultation.

Hamas’ revised proposal includes the release of approximately 120 hostages, a phased ceasefire, and the eventual reconstruction of Gaza. Israel, which has historically only agreed to temporary pauses in fighting, is considering the new terms following discussions with mediators from Egypt and Qatar.

On the Ground in Gaza

Despite the ongoing negotiations, conflict continues in Gaza. Israeli tanks reportedly advanced into the Al-Nasser neighborhood near the Egyptian border, aiming to dismantle Hamas’ armed infrastructure. An Israeli airstrike in Jabalia refugee camp killed five Palestinians, including three children, while seven more were killed in an Israeli operation in Jenin, West Bank.

Gazans remain cautious about the prospects of renewed talks, given the fragile nature of previous truces. “We in Gaza are people who sleep on death and wake up to death. We know that at any time we can die,” said Ibtisam Al-Athamna, a displaced resident of Khan Younis.

As diplomatic efforts continue, the world watches closely, hoping for a breakthrough that could bring much-needed relief and stability to the region.