Counteroffer: Hamas Demands Full Israeli Withdrawal from Gaza in Response to Ceasefire Proposal

Gaza City, Palestine – In response to an Israel-backed ceasefire proposal, Hamas has presented a series of demands including the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners and the reconstruction of Gaza. The armed group is calling for a full withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to the conflict after three 45-day truce periods. This counteroffer is likely to face opposition from Israel’s prime minister, who has expressed the desire for “total victory” in Gaza.

The proposal, mediated by Qatar and Egypt with the support of the United States, has not been made public, but according to a draft seen by Reuters, Hamas’s plan includes three phases. The first phase involves a 45-day pause in fighting, during which Israeli hostages would be exchanged for Palestinian women and children held in Israeli jails, and Israeli forces would withdraw from populated areas of Gaza. The second phase would see the exchange of remaining male Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. The final phase would involve both sides exchanging remains and bodies. Additionally, the proposal outlines an increase in deliveries of food and aid to Gaza, with negotiations for a permanent ceasefire to conclude by the end of the 135-day pause in fighting.

US President Joe Biden has described the proposal as “a little over the top,” while Secretary of State Anthony Blinken emphasizes the need for “a lot of work to be done” to reach a lasting peace. In previous truce efforts, about 100 hostages were freed in a swap with 240 Palestinian prisoners.

The Israeli government is currently evaluating Hamas’s counteroffer, with some officials expressing doubts about meeting certain Hamas demands. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emphasized the goal of “total victory” in the conflict, although some Israeli officials acknowledge the challenges of achieving this militarily. The United States and its Arab partners continue to press for a sustained humanitarian pause, aiming to pave the way for the rebuilding of Gaza and a potential ceasefire. However, concerns about the potential for a wider regional conflict and the deepening humanitarian crisis in the region add complexity to the situation.