Hamas leaders to discuss Gaza ceasefire proposal in Cairo

Palestinian factions set to consider Egyptian draft plan after meeting in Beirut

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Beirut in 2021. Representatives of the group have held talks in the Lebanese capital after Egypt submitted a ceasefire plan. AP
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A delegation from Hamas travelled to Cairo on Friday for talks on an Egyptian ceasefire proposal, a day after five Palestinian factions, including the Gaza militant group, met in Beirut to discuss the war with Israel.

The groups demanded that Israel cease hostilities and withdraw its troops from Gaza before any more Israeli hostages are released, a Hamas statement said.

The military wings of the five factions – Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, two divisions of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine – continue to fight against Israel in Gaza, where more than 21,500 people have been killed in 12 weeks of war.

The groups rejected all foreign “solutions and scenarios for the so-called ‘future of the Gaza Strip’", the Hamas statement said.

The group, which controls the enclave, called for the formation of a national unity government for the Palestinian people. It also called for three rounds of elections – one for a new president, another for a legislative council and a third vote for a parliamentary council.

Following the meeting in Beirut, Hamas leaders travelled to Egypt to discuss a proposed three-stage ceasefire drafted last week by Egyptian mediators.

The draft, seen by The National, has not received an official response from Palestinian or Israeli authorities, according to the director of Egypt's State Information Service, Diaa Rashwan.

The Israeli war cabinet said it was reviewing an Egyptian plan on Thursday night, but it was not clear whether this was the same version seen by The National.

Palestinian officials confirmed they received the plan. Hamas official Osama Hamdan, who lives in Lebanon, said the group was open to ideas that could bring about a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

"There are many ideas that are being presented and we are dealing with those ideas on the basis that we want a comprehensive end of the aggression and not temporary truces. We are open to ideas that may lead to that," he said.

Plan for peace

The draft plan was issued by Egyptian mediators, with input from Qatar and the US, after talks with Israeli officials and Hamas leaders.

Egyptian officials told The National that the plan was a work in progress and could change.

The draft of the proposal describes a first phase in which a “humanitarian deal” of 10 days is declared after a two-day truce, during which the warring sides will indirectly negotiate the exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian detainees.

The two sides would cease hostilities, including reconnaissance and drone flights by Israel.

Hamas would release women, the elderly, children and ailing hostages in exchange for a number of Palestinians detained in Israel. Israeli authorities would also allow the delivery of medical and food aid, fuel and cooking gas into Gaza.

The second stage of the plan lasts for seven days and stipulates the release of female Israeli soldiers and all human remains held by Hamas, in exchange for more Palestinian detainees. Israel is to withdraw its forces from urban areas under a continuing ceasefire.

The third stage includes one month of negotiations over the release of the remaining male Israeli soldiers held captive, in exchange for Palestinian detainees. Israel would be expected to carry out a complete withdrawal of its forces from the enclave.

Israel plans border control

Israel wants tougher border controls between Egypt and Gaza, the country's Defence Minister said.

Yoav Gallant this week confirmed he was in talks with Egypt to build an advanced border fence to prevent arms smuggling into the enclave

Mr Gallant made the remarks during a meeting of the Knesset foreign and security affairs committee.

Israel does not plan to occupy the Gaza-Egypt border, but wants tougher controls, Israel's Channel 14 quoted him as saying.

The report said Israel wanted the size of the Rafah border area to be increased and for a multinational force to carry out inspections.

Israel also reportedly plans to seal the frontier with an underground barrier.

The Rafah border is administered by Egypt and was the sole route into Gaza for humanitarian aid until earlier this month, when Israel allowed a limited number of shipments through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Updated: December 29, 2023, 1:26 PM