Following weeks of stagnation in the negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a deal for the release of Israeli hostages, Hamas has finally responded. Perhaps unsurprisingly though, the terms they have proposed are unacceptable to Israel.
Hamas is demanding a long ceasefire, lasting four-and-a-half months, that would lead to a permanent truce. Their terms include the withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) from Gaza and an end to the war, rehabilitating Gaza under Hamas’s continued governance, and the release of 1,500 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails with the guarantee that they will not be rearrested for the same offences. This would include 500 prisoners of Hamas’s choosing, whose offences are so severe that they are serving life sentences.
In return, Hamas would release the hostages they still hold in three stages, each lasting 45 days. In the first stage, women, the elderly and children would be handed over. In the second stage, male hostages would be released; the final stage would include the return of bodies.
The terror group’s proposal comes a day after a leaked Israeli intelligence report revealed that at least 30 of the 136 hostages held by Hamas are believed to be dead. Of those, the majority were killed by Hamas during the 7 October attack and their bodies taken to Gaza to be used for negotiations with Israel.
Families of the hostages, along with the majority of Israelis, are urging the government to reach a deal with Hamas. They know that with each passing day, more of the hostages – some wounded or sick – could die, or be killed. Protests in favour of a deal, along with those against prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, now happen regularly and are gathering momentum.