Factbox-What a ceasefire and hostage deal for Gaza could include

(Reuters) – The United States has said a deal may be close for a ceasefire and hostage deal after nearly five months of war between Israel and Hamas that has devastated the Gaza Strip.

The conflict was triggered when Hamas militants burst over the Gaza border to attack Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies.

Israel’s air and ground campaign in Gaza since then killed nearly 30,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar have been mediating truce negotiations since January. The last deal led to a week-long pause in fighting in November during which the Islamist Hamas released more than 100 hostages and Israel freed about three times as many Palestinian prisoners.

These are some facts about the ceasefire talks:


There are mixed signals.

On Friday Israeli negotiators met Qatari, Egyptian and U.S. mediators in Paris. A source briefed on those talks said they had produced a truce “outline” that could eventually lead to a ceasefire.

U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Israel and the mediators “came to an understanding” on the basic contours of a deal.

This week, Israeli officials are heading to Qatar where Hamas has its political office, though the two sides will not speak directly, a source said.

Still, in their public statements, the two sides remain far apart on the biggest issues.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel’s military campaign should turn to Rafah, the last relatively safe place in Gaza that has been swelled by a million displaced people who fled their homes elsewhere.

Aid agencies, as well as Western allies of Israel, fear an attack there would magnify the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the war, intensifying international pressure for a truce.

Meanwhile the Muslim holy month of Ramadan will start on around March 10. Arab countries have voiced fears a continuation of fighting in Ramadan will further stoke regional tensions.


The biggest difference between the sides is over conditions for a ceasefire.

Israel has said it is ready to accept a temporary halt to fighting during a hostage-and-prisoner swap, and Israeli media have cited officials talking about a six-week truce covering Ramadan.

But Netanyahu is determined not to end the military campaign until it achieves “total victory” over Hamas with an assault on Rafah.

He then envisages open-ended Israeli security control over Gaza which would allow forces to return at any point.

Hamas says it will only accept a deal based on a permanent ceasefire that ends the war and includes an Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza, rather than another temporary truce.


Netanyahu and his senior ministers say that any agreement would have to lead to the return of all the roughly 130 hostages believed to remain in Gaza. In return for freeing hostages, Hamas wants a wide-scale release of Palestinians held by Israel.

Negotiations may touch on the ratio of prisoners to be released per hostage, the phasing of the releases, and whether higher-profile Palestinians or those convicted of serious violence would be included.


It is not clear how far either side would make an accord now contingent on other issues or longer-term goals.

But Hamas is seeking other commitments as part of a deal.

It wants all displaced people to be able to return to their homes across Gaza. It wants far more aid to be allowed in. And it wants a reconstruction programme, with most houses and infrastructure having been smashed or damaged by Israeli bombardment.

Netanyahu’s post-war plan, contained in a cabinet discussion paper, conditions rehabilitation of Gaza on the coastal enclave’s total demilitarisation – meaning Hamas would have to lay down all its arms, something it is unlikely to accept.


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