Israel and Hamas are far apart on a Gaza ceasefire and captive deal. What are the sticking points?

AP , Wednesday 7 Feb 2024

Israel and Hamas are examining proposed terms for a deal meant to bring about a cease-fire in the 4-month-old Israeli-Gaza war in exchange for the release of dozens of captives still held there and the freeing of many Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

A picture taken from a position in southern Israel along the border with the Gaza Strip on January 19, 2024, shows an Israeli tank rolling along the fence as damaged buildings are seen in the Gaza Strip. AFP


The two sides remain far apart on conditions. Mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the US are working to bridge the gaps. Here is a look at what each side wants:

WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To maintain its control over the Palestinian territory.

THE STICKING POINT: Israel claims destroying Hamas is the central aim of its monthslong Gaza war, but has failed to meet this war objective as Qassam and other Palestinian resistance factions continue to exact a heavy toll on the Israeli army in fierce battles in various parts of the Gaza Strip


WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners including senior political leaders

WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To keep those Palestinian leaders behind bars

THE STICKING POINT: Thousands of Palestinian prisoners are held by Israel on minor or more serious charges — or in some cases no charges at all — related to the long-running Israeli occupation. 

Israel has agreed to lopsided trades for its captives in the past. One such deal in 2011 freed Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit from Hamas captivity in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Among those released was Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ current leader in Gaza.

Hamas is demanding freedom for Palestinian fighters and political leaders such as Fattah's Marwan Barghouti who has been in Israeli jails for 22 years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right governing partners he relies on to stay in power oppose a deal that includes senior Palestinian fighters.

They are also likely to reject a demand to free such a large number of prisoners.

The fate of prisoners is deeply emotional. While Israel considers them to be terrorists, Palestinians view them as heroes battling Israeli occupation. Virtually every Palestinian has a friend, relative or acquaintance who has been imprisoned.


WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To resume fighting after the release of its captives.

WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To get an up-front commitment that releasing all captives will lead to an end to the Israeli aggression.

THE STICKING POINT: Netanyahu says Israel will continue fighting until "total victory" over Hamas. Moreover, Israel wants to keep its forces on the ground in the Gaza Strip even after the war is over with several cabinet ministers and Israeli officials having expressed the sentiment of recolonizing the Gaza Strip and building settlements there.

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