Hamas Gives Initial Approval on U.S.-Backed Cease-Fire Proposal

Hamas Gives Initial Approval on U.S.-Backed Cease-Fire Proposal

Gaza — Hamas has given initial approval to a U.S.-backed proposal for a phased cease-fire deal in Gaza, dropping a key demand for Israel to commit to a complete end to the war upfront, according to a Hamas official and an Egyptian official on Saturday, reports Associated Press.

The apparent compromise by Hamas, which controlled Gaza before the war triggered by its October 7 attack on Israel, could deliver the first pause in fighting since November and pave the way for further talks to end the devastating nine-month conflict. However, officials from all sides cautioned that a final agreement is still uncertain.

Inside Gaza, the Health Ministry reported that an Israeli airstrike on a school-turned-shelter in the Nuseirat refugee camp killed at least 16 people and wounded at least 50 others, including children. Israel’s military claimed it targeted “terrorists” operating near the school and attempted to minimize civilian casualties.

The two officials, speaking anonymously due to ongoing negotiations, detailed that the U.S. proposal would begin with a "full and complete" six-week cease-fire. During this period, older, sick, and female hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would also withdraw from densely populated areas of Gaza, allowing displaced people to return to their homes in northern Gaza.

A senior Hamas official confirmed that female soldiers would be among the first released hostages. During the six-week cease-fire, further negotiations would address the release of remaining male hostages and additional Palestinian prisoners. The final phase would involve the return of all remaining hostages, including deceased bodies, and the commencement of a long-term reconstruction project.

Hamas is seeking written guarantees from mediators to ensure continued negotiations for a permanent cease-fire once the initial phase is in effect. The first Hamas official said the group’s approval was based on receiving “verbal commitments and guarantees” from mediators that the war would not resume and that negotiations would continue until a permanent cease-fire is reached. “Now we want these guarantees on paper,” the official stated.

Months of intermittent cease-fire talks have faltered over Hamas' demand for a complete end to the war in any deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to pause fighting but insists on continuing until Israel achieves its goals of dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and ensuring the return of all hostages held by the group.

Hamas fears that Israel will resume the war after hostages are released, while Israeli officials worry that Hamas might prolong talks and the cease-fire indefinitely without releasing all hostages. Netanyahu’s office did not respond to requests for comment, and there was no immediate comment from Washington.

Netanyahu confirmed that the Mossad spy agency’s chief had recently visited Qatar, a key mediator, but noted that “gaps between the parties” remained. Hostage families expressed hope but urged Netanyahu not to thwart the deal. “For the first time in many months, we feel hopeful,” they said in a statement. “Netanyahu, we have seen how you repeatedly thwart deals in real time. Don’t you dare break our hearts again.”

The conflict began on October 7 when Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing approximately 1,200 people and abducting around 250. Israel says Hamas is still holding about 120 hostages, a third of whom are believed to be dead. Since then, Israel's offensive has killed over 38,000 people in Gaza, according to Gaza's Health Ministry, leading to widespread devastation and a humanitarian crisis.

The cease-fire deal proposes allowing around 600 trucks of humanitarian aid into Gaza daily, with half destined for the hard-hit northern areas. Aid supplies have been severely limited since Israel's assault on Rafah in southern Gaza. Walid Hegazi, a resident of the Jabaliya refugee camp, expressed the dire situation: “We want to eat, but from where we can eat? The country is exhausted. The country is destitute. It is not suitable for living.”

Additionally, the Hamas-run Interior Ministry reported that an Israeli airstrike in Rafah killed four police officers and wounded eight others. The Israeli military did not immediately respond to questions.

Meanwhile, low-level conflict continues between Israeli forces and Hezbollah. An Israeli airstrike in Baalbek, eastern Lebanon, killed Meitham Mustafa al-Attar, a key operative in Hezbollah’s air defense unit. Hezbollah confirmed al-Attar’s death without providing details on his position.

In recent weeks, fears have grown that the ongoing clashes could escalate into a full-scale war.

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