A source close to the negotiations said that Hamas's counter-proposal does not require a guarantee of a permanent ceasefire at first, but that an end to the war must be agreed upon before the last hostages are released.
A second source said that Hamas still wants guarantees from Qatar, Egypt and other friendly countries that the ceasefire will be adhered to and will not collapse once the hostages are released.
He added: “They want the aggression to stop, not temporarily, and not anywhere [the Israelis] Take the hostages and then the Palestinian people will live in a mill.”
Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said that the movement’s goal is “to stop the aggression against our Palestinian people, secure a complete and permanent ceasefire, and provide relief, aid, shelter, and reconstruction.”
Hamas proposes a truce in three stages
According to the offer document seen by Reuters and confirmed by sources, during the first phase, which will last 45 days, all Israeli female hostages, men under the age of 19, the elderly and the sick will be released, in exchange for Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons. Israel will withdraw its forces from populated areas in Gaza.
The implementation of the second phase will not begin until the two sides conclude “indirect talks on the requirements necessary to end mutual military operations and return to complete calm.”
The second phase includes the release of the remaining male hostages and complete Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip. The remains of the dead will be exchanged during the third phase.
Yamen Hamad, a father of four who lives in a UN school in Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, told Reuters: “People are optimistic, and at the same time they are praying that this hope will turn into a real agreement that ends the war.” Via messaging app.
In Rafah, on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip, where half of the Strip's population of 2.3 million people are located at the border fence with Egypt, the bodies of 10 people killed in Israeli raids overnight were placed in the hospital morgue. At least two of the covered packages were the size of small children. Relatives cried next to the dead.
Palestinian health officials said an Israeli air strike killed three more people in a house in Rafah on Wednesday. They added that senior Palestinian police officer and Hamas member Magdy Abdel-Al was killed in an Israeli air strike on a car that was charged with securing aid trucks in Rafah.
Israel began its military offensive after militants from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostage in southern Israel on October 7. The Gaza Ministry of Health says at least 27,585 Palestinians have been confirmed dead, with fears that thousands more may be buried under the rubble. There has been only one truce so far, which lasted only one week at the end of November.
Netanyahu faces competing pressure from far-right members of his coalition government who say they will resign rather than support any deal that fails to eliminate Hamas, and from the families of the hostages who are demanding a deal to return them to their homeland.
Washington made the hostage agreement and the truce part of plans for a broader solution to the conflict in the Middle East that would ultimately lead to reconciliation between Israel and its Arab neighbors and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Netanyahu has rejected the establishment of a Palestinian state, which Saudi Arabia – the ultimate prize in Israel's quest for acceptance from its Middle Eastern neighbors – says is a condition for any agreement to normalize relations with Israel.
This diplomacy comes at a time when Israel is trying to seize the main city in southern Gaza, Khan Yunis. Last week, Israel announced that it was planning to storm Rafah, a move that UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday would “significantly increase an already humanitarian nightmare with untold regional consequences.”
The Israeli army said that it had killed dozens of activists in fighting during the past 24 hours. Similar allegations were made throughout the fighting in Khan Yunis, and could not be independently verified.