Hamas Approves U.S.-Backed Ceasefire Deal but Netanyahu Wants to Block It

Hamas recently dropped its demand that any ceasefire deal it signs must contain the commitment by Israel to completely end the war in Gaza, and is thus ready to approve the agreement brokered by the United States. A Hamas official and an Egyptian official, both unnamed, told AP July 6 that Washington’s phased deal would start with a “full and complete” six-week cease-fire, during which older, sick and female hostages would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. During those 42 days, Israeli forces would withdraw from densely-populated areas of Gaza and allow the return of displaced people to their homes in northern Gaza.

Simultaneously, according to those officials, Hamas, Israel and mediators would negotiate the terms of the second phase which could see the release of the remaining male hostages, both civilians and soldiers, while in return, Israel would free additional Palestinian prisoners and detainees. The third phase would include the return of any remaining hostages, including bodies of the dead, and the start of a years-long reconstruction project.

The Hamas representative told AP that the group’s approval came after it received “verbal commitments and guarantees” from the mediators that the war will not be resumed and that negotiations will continue until a permanent cease-fire is reached. “Now we want these guarantees on paper,” the representative said.

While Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu did agree to restart talks over a possible deal, he insisted July 7 that he would not sign any document that rules out Israel’s resumption of fighting until its objectives are fully met or that allows the return of displaced Palestinians to the north. That, despite the growing opposition in Israel itself to a war that has gone on for nine months, killed over 38,000 Palestinians, wounded hundreds of thousands, and made the Gaza Strip unlivable – without achieving any of those objectives. On July 6, tens of thousands protested across the country, to demand the government accept the ceasefire deal approved by Hamas.

As reported in the New York Times ten days ago, a good number of Israeli military leaders are also urging the government to accept a ceasefire, if only to allow the armed forces to rest and better prepare for what could become a prolonged conflict with the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The deputy head of the Hezbollah Sheikh Naim Kassem had told AP a few days ago that if a ceasefire is declared in Gaza, his group would stop its military support to Hamas immediately, “without any discussion”.

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