Terms agreed on in last proposal minimum to sign truce deal with Israel: Hamas

Ahram Online , Wednesday 22 May 2024

Hamas officials told Saudi Arabia's Al-Sharq News channel on Wednesday that the latest truce deal proposal, which the Palestinian group accepted in the Cairo negotiations on 6 May, represents the minimum acceptable terms for signing any deal.

Ismail Haniyeh
File Photo: Ismail Haniyeh, the Doha-based political bureau chief of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on March 26, 2024. AFP


The official, who spoke anonymously, said Hamas informed the mediators that they were "not prepared" to return to negotiations in the previous manner but were open to any constructive suggestions.

A second Hamas told Al-Sharq: "We made significant concessions to reach an agreement that would lead to a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and we showed flexibility at various stages to achieve this goal."

This official added: "The mediators told us that Israel needs somewhat ambiguous language regarding the cessation of the war, because its Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, cannot market an agreement that stipulates a total ceasefire. So, we agreed to the term 'sustainable calm,' clarified in parentheses as 'cessation of military and hostile operations' by both sides."

The official emphasized that "the main goal for us is to stop the war and achieve a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip." 

He said: "We therefore showed great flexibility regarding the conditions for prisoner exchange and the stages of the Israeli withdrawal to achieve these two goals. We agreed to release 50 Palestinian prisoners for each Israeli captive in the first phase, which included two categories of Israeli captives: civilians and female soldiers. We also agreed to a gradual Israeli withdrawal from densely populated areas to areas near the border first, then a complete withdrawal to the borders in the final phase."

On 6 May, immediately after Hamas accepted the deal, mediated by Egypt, Qatar and the US, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an unsubstantiated claim that Israel was not consulted on the terms included in the truce proposal that Hamas announced agreeing to and ordered a ground assault on Rafah hours later.

Flexible, but up to a point!

A third Hamas official, closely involved in the negotiations, told Al-Sharq that in the last round of talks in early May, mediators informed them that the American side "agreed to slight modifications we requested on the proposal.

The first removes Israel's demand for the right to object to the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners, and the second stipulates the release of all Israeli captives, both civilians and soldiers, in the first phase, whether alive or dead, instead of 33 living individuals as Israel initially demanded."

"Not all civilians and soldiers are alive, and we cannot release soldiers and officers instead of civilians, as these are different categories with different conditions," he added.

He said: "Under no circumstances can the movement accept that Israel retains the right to refuse the release of any Palestinian prisoner because they will reject the release of prominent prisoner leaders whose release is crucial to any exchange process. Such prisoners include names such as Marwan Barghouti, Ahmed Saadat, Ibrahim Hamed, Abdullah Barghouti, Abbas Sayyed, Hassan Salameh, and others whom Israel refused to release in the Shalit deal of 2011."

The Hamas official noted that what Israel offered in its last proposal was "surrender, and we are ready to fight to the last breath and will not surrender. The recent battles in Gaza prove this to everyone."

He said the movement had reduced its combat operations during the negotiations to help reach an agreement. But after the talks collapsed, they resumed combat operations significantly since they had no choice but to fight.

The Israeli war cabinet is scheduled to meet on Wednesday evening to discuss ways to resume prisoner exchange negotiations. However, Hamas officials say they will not return to the previous negotiation style. Still, they remain open to constructive suggestions that align with the last accepted proposal.

Ongoing mediation efforts

Last week, US special envoy Brett McGurk visited the Qatari capital Doha, where he held talks with the Qatari government about the chances of resuming truce and prisoner exchange negotiations.

A Hamas official told Al-Sharq they informed the Qatari mediator that they are ready to discuss any serious proposal to reach an agreement yet there are red lines for the movement.

For the movement, the cessation of war, withdrawal, and any Israeli objections to the release of any Palestinian prisoner are nonnegotiable, said the official.

He added: "Our central goal is the complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the cessation of the war, despite knowing that Israel will always find excuses to pursue the movement and its leaders in Gaza and abroad. But what matters to us is the liberation of Gaza, the return of the residents to their homes, the start of reconstruction, and the release of Palestinian prisoners who are dying one after another in Israeli prisons."

Indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel stopped about two weeks ago when the Israeli side rejected a proposal by the mediators which Hamas had accepted.

Egypt, which has hosted round after round of truce talks in Cairo, has blamed Israel for evading all sincere efforts to reach a ceasefire and held Tel Aviv responsible for the escalation in the war and threatening regional stability.

Last week, in a speech at the 33rd Arab summit in Bahrain, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi called on the international community to intervene to stop the outrageous Israel war on Gaza.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, since 7 October, the Israeli brutal military campaign on the Gaza Strip has resulted in killing 35,709 and injuring around 80.000 people - 70 percent of them women and children.

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