Egypt advocates plan to end Israeli war on Gaza, create transitional Palestinian government

AP , Ahram Online , Monday 25 Dec 2023

Egypt has put forward an ambitious, initial proposal to end the Israeli war on Gaza with a cease-fire, a phased detainees exchange and the creation of a Palestinian government of experts who would administer the Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank, a senior Egyptian official and a European diplomat told AP on Monday.

A wounded Palestinian child is wheeled into an ambulance at the Rafah border crossing in Egypt after being evacuated from the Gaza Strip, on December 25, 2023. AFP


The proposal worked out with Qatar and has been presented to Israel, Hamas, the United States, and European governments but still appeared preliminary.

The proposal does not meet Israel’s goal of outright crushing Hamas nor meet Israel’s insistence on keeping military control over Gaza for an extended period after the war.

Israel’s War Cabinet, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, will meet later Monday to discuss the captives situation, among other topics, an Israeli official said, but would not say if they would discuss the Egyptian proposal. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

According to the Israeli news website Walla, quoting an unnamed senior Israeli official, the Egyptian proposal is expected to be discussed during the meeting.

Egyptian proposal


The Egyptian proposal is an ambitious bid not only to end the war but also to lay out a plan for the day after.

This would include the release of all remaining captives in return for all Palestinian prisoners and detainees in Israel, as well as the Israeli army’s withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinian militants’ halting of rocket attacks into Israel.

Egypt and Qatar would also work with all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, to agree on the establishment of a government of experts, an Egyptian official told AP. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing talks.

The government would rule Gaza and the West Bank for a transitional period as Palestinian factions settle their disputes and agree on a roadmap to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, the source added.

The plan calls for an initial cease-fire of up to two weeks during which Palestinian resistance group would free 40 to 50 captives, among them women, the sick, and the elderly, in return for the release of 120-150 Palestinians from Israeli prisons, the source told AP. 

At the same time, negotiations would continue extending the cease-fire and the release of more captives and bodies held by Palestinians, he said.

Three stages plan


According to the Saudi news site Asharq, which quoted a source who participated in the talks between Egypt and Hamas, the Egyptian initiative is a plan of three stages.

The first stage includes a humanitarian deal lasting seven to ten days, during which Hamas will release all its civilian captives, including women, children, the sick and the elderly, in exchange for Israel’s release of an appropriate number of Palestinian prisoners in its custody.

The initial stage comprises a comprehensive ceasefire across all regions of the Gaza Strip by both parties, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas, facilitating unrestricted movement for citizens from south to north, and enabling vehicular transportation.

Hamas would commit to stop all forms of operations against Israel.

It also requires a suspension of all Israeli aerial operations, encompassing drones and surveillance aircraft, across the entirety of the Gaza Strip, and emphasizes the amplification of humanitarian and relief aid access, particularly between Gaza City and the northern region.

The second phase includes the release of all female soldiers detained by the Palestinian groups in exchange for several Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons, to be agreed upon by both sides, as well as the handover of all bodies held by both sides since the start of operations on 7 October, Asharq explains.

This phase extends for seven days.

During the third phase, negotiations will be held for one month to discuss the release of all Israeli army personnel by Hamas in exchange for the release by Israel of several Palestinian prisoners agreed upon by both sides.

According to the AP source, Israel and Hamas would continue to negotiate a comprehensive “all-for-all” deal.

Close to 8,000 Palestinians are held by Israel on security-related charges or convictions, according to Palestinian figures.

The transition from stage to stage should not take place until after the implementation of all the procedures of the previous stage, Asharq says.

Egyptian officials discussed the outline of the proposal with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, who visited Cairo on Wednesday.

They plan to discuss it with the leader of the Islamic Jihad group, Ziyad al-Nakhalah, who arrived in Cairo on Sunday, the official said. The resistance group, which also took part in the  Al-Aqsa Flood operation, said it was prepared to consider releasing captives only after the fighting ends.

A Western diplomat told AP they are aware of Egypt’s proposal. But the diplomat, who demanded anonymity to discuss the matter, doubts that Netanyahu and his hawkish government would accept the entire proposal. The diplomat gave no further details.

Word of the proposal comes after three bloody days across Gaza before Christmas Day in which Israeli airstrikes killed at least 100 Palestinians at a time and 17 soldiers were killed in ground fighting in the north, centre, and south of the territory.

The war has devastated large parts of Gaza, killed more than 20,400 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children, and displaced almost all of the territory’s 2.3 million people.

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