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3-stage Gaza truce plan being examined: Hamas source

3-stage Gaza truce plan being examined: Hamas source
Image of Refugee camp after Israeli strike (Oct 31, 2023)

Hamas is reviewing plans for a three-stage truce with Israel which foresee a weeks-long halt to the Gaza war, a source in the Palestinian militant group told AFP on Wednesday.

The Islamist movement said earlier this week it was mulling proposals drawn up by mediators in Paris for a second truce nearly four months since the war began.

While a November pause to the fighting lasted a week, the latest accord aims to pave the way for an initial six-week halt to the fighting.

Over that period Israel would release between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners who are not deemed high-security detainees, in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages held in Gaza, the Hamas source close to Egyptian and Qatari mediators said.

Only “women, children and sick men over 60” who are captive in Gaza would be freed at this stage, the Hamas source told AFP, declining to be named given the sensitivity of the issue.

Palestinian militants seized about 250 hostages during Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel. The attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,140 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

Israel says 132 of the hostages remain in Gaza including at least 29 people believed to have been killed.

Relentless bombardment by Israel and a ground invasion has killed at least 26,900 people in Gaza since then, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The war has displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s population of 2.4 million and prompted the United Nations to warn famine is imminent.

Under the new agreement, aid deliveries would be boosted with the entry of 200 to 300 trucks per day.

“The first stage includes negotiations around the withdrawal of Israeli forces and enabling the return of displaced people to Gaza (City) and the north of the strip,” the source said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out pulling Israel’s armed forces from Gaza, but in a meeting with some families of hostages on Wednesday he vowed to bring the captives home.

“We are making every effort, but the more discreet these efforts are, greater are the chances of success,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

“There is a real effort to bring everyone back… it’s too early to say how it will unfold, but these efforts are underway as we speak.”

The Hamas source said if the ceasefire lasts, a second stage would see Israeli reservist soldiers released from captivity in exchange for an undefined number of Palestinian prisoners.

Other soldiers and officers would subsequently be freed, the source said, once more in tandem with the release of Palestinians held in Israel.

The last issues addressed by the deal pertain to an exchange of bodies by the two sides, as well as the control of Gaza border crossings and rebuilding the shattered territory.

Egypt and Qatar were set to serve as mediators, in coordination with the United States and France, the Hamas source added.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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