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Ceasefire hopes rise after Hamas ‘agrees to substance of deal’

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2 February 2024, The Australian, by Alistair Dawber and Samer al-Atrus

Hamas and Israel have agreed to the “substance” of a deal that would allow the remaining civilian hostages being held in Gaza to be freed in return for a 40-day ceasefire, a Qatari official said.

A resolution could be reached “within weeks”, the official added.

Mediators led by Qatar and Egypt hope the momentum could lead to an end to the war, negotiations on governing Gaza and a long-term resolution to the ­Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

However, Hamas is yet to commit to the deal, and an official from the group told The Times no ­decision had been made.

“Both sides have agreed to the substance that could guide the coming humanitarian ceasefire and we hope it will be concluded within weeks,” the Qatari broadcaster Al-Jazeera quoted Majed al-Ansari, the country’s foreign ministry spokesman, as saying.

A delegation from the militant group led by Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is visiting Egypt to discuss the details, the ­official said. It wants assurances that the war, triggered by the terrorist attacks it carried out on ­October 7, in which more than 1200 Israelis were killed, would be brought to an end.

The proposal, negotiated in Paris, envisions Hamas freeing the remaining civilians among more than 100 hostages it is still holding. Further phases would ­involve the release of Israeli soldiers and the bodies of dead hostages being returned.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the war cannot end until Hamas has been removed from power in Gaza, but he has come under pressure from Washington to bring the fighting to a close.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza says more than 27,000 people have been killed in the territory, with vast amounts of infrastructure have been ­destroyed in the Israeli offensive.

Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant said on Thursday that Hamas’s Khan Younis brigade had been dismantled.

Antony Blinken, the American Secretary of State, will travel to the region this weekend, his fifth trip to Israel since the October 7 attacks. “These negotiations, our negotiations, are very, very ­active,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the White House’s ­National Security Council. “We believe that the discussions have been productive. They’ve been moving in the right direction.”

Israel’s military said on Thursday troops had “eliminated dozens of terrorists” over the past day and destroyed a long-range missile launcher in Khan Younis.

According to the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, 119 people were killed in strikes overnight.

The UN also reported heavy bombardment across Gaza, particularly in Khan Younis, and said 184,000 more Palestinians from the city had registered for ­humanitarian assistance.

More than 30,000 displaced people in schools around the city’s Nasser hospital face a lack of food, water, medicine and baby formula, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

“We have nothing to eat, nothing to drink … we have nothing here but fear,” a woman at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City told AFPTV. “People are scared. We demand a ceasefire.”

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Article source: The Australian/Alistair Dawber and Samer al-Atrus/2.2.2024

2024-05-08 07:04:10.000000