Israel talks with Hamas back on as terror group drops permanent ceasefire demand

Relatives of hostages in Gaza protest in front of the Israeli parliament demanding their return Credit: Saeed Qaq/Anadolu via Getty Images

Under the draft proposals, a first tranche of hostages will be released under a six-week truce, after which talks can continue Israel reopened ceasefire talks with Hamas on Friday after the terror group dropped its demands for a permanent truce.

Hamas published a revised deal to swap its Israeli hostages for up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Previous talks broke down over Hamas demanding a permanent end to fighting, and after the group refused to supply Israel with a list of captives who are still alive in Gaza.

Under the draft proposals, a first tranche of hostages will be released under a six-week truce, after which talks can start on a permanent ceasefire.

On Friday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, dismissed the “unrealistic” new offer but said he would send a delegation to Qatar to reopen talks.

Israel has been reluctant to sign up to a permanent ceasefire as it is committed to its goal of destroying Hamas entirely.

Mr Netanyahu also said that he had approved plans for an invasion of Rafah, the last remaining Hamas stronghold in Gaza. His threat was probably part warning and part negotiating leverage.

On Friday, the US said that it needed to see a clear and workable plan for Rafah, which included getting civilians out of harm’s way.

It came as Joe Biden praised a speech by the Democratic leader of the US Senate that called for Mr Netanyahu to hold elections in Israel as he has “lost his way.”

Hosting Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, in the Oval Office, Mr Biden said senator Chuck Schumer had forewarned the White House that he intended to make a highly critical speech about the Israel leader.

“I’m not going to elaborate on the speech,” the US president said. “He made a good speech, and I think he expressed serious concern shared not only by him, but by many Americans.”

The new Hamas offer demands Israel frees up to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 100 people serving life sentences, in return for vulnerable Israeli hostages.

In the first stage of the deal, Hamas would release all women, children, elderly and ill hostages as well as female soldiers in exchange for 700 to 1,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israel, according to the document seen by Reuters.

Hamas would then push for a permanent ceasefire only after the first stage of the deal was complete

A group representing families of some of the hostages urged the Israeli government to accept it. “For the first time, we can envision embracing them again. Please grant us this right,” the group said.

Several hundred people rallied outside the IDF’s headquarters on Friday afternoon, demanding the cabinet accept the deal.

Hamas toughened its stance in the most recent round of talks, saying it would only agree to a deal that included a permanent ceasefire.

Israel previously offered a six-week break in fighting and publicly insisted it could not stop fighting in Gaza until it felt all the military capability of Hamas had been destroyed.

Mr Netanyahu earlier this week reiterated this call for a ground operation in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, something that Israel’s main ally, the United States, has opposed.

Egypt, one of the key mediators between Hamas and Israel, has urged both parties to come to an agreement.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on Friday that his country was hoping to reach a ceasefire in Gaza and increase the flow of aid into the besieged enclave.

He also wanted Israel against launching a ground offensive in Rafah near the Egyptian border.
The Telegraph

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