Hamas accepts Qatari-Egyptian proposal for Gaza ceasefire

The announcement comes after people start to flee eastern Rafah after Israel orders tens of thousands to evacuate.

People flee the eastern parts of Rafah after the Israeli military ordered Palestinian to leave before a threatened assault on the southern Gaza city [Hatem Khaled/Reuters]Published On 6 May 20246 May 2024

Hamas has approved a proposal for a ceasefire in the Gaza war put forward by mediators Qatar and Egypt, the Palestinian group says, although Israel has yet to comment on the proposal.

“Ismail Haniyeh, head of the political bureau of Hamas movement, conducted a telephone call with the prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and with the Egyptian intelligence minister, Mr Abbas Kamel, and informed them of Hamas’s approval of their proposal regarding a ceasefire agreement,” the group said in a statement published on its official website on Monday.

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Details of the proposal were not immediately clear.

Khalil al-Hayya, a member of the group’s political bureau, told Al Jazeera Arabic that the Qatari-Egyptian proposal includes a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a return of displaced Palestinians to their homes, as well as an exchange of Israeli captives and Palestinian prisoners.

These will take place in phases, according to al-Hayya. In the first phase, indirect negotiations through mediators will resume on the exchange of captives and prisoners. A withdrawal of some Israeli troops from certain areas will also take place, as well as the unhindered return of displaced families to their homes, and the flow of aid, fuel and relief materials into Gaza, he said.

In the second phase of the agreement, al-Hayya said an announcement of a complete and permanent halt to all military activity in Gaza is expected to take place.

“The ball is now in Israel’s court”, he said.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington will “withhold judgement” on Hamas’s response to the proposal until it has time to fully review it.

“I can confirm that Hamas has issued a response. We are reviewing that response now and discussing it with our partners in the region,” he said.

“It’s something that is a top priority for everyone in this administration from the president on down,” Miller said.

Hamas’s statement was released after people started to flee the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip after Israel ordered tens of thousands of people to evacuate as fears grew of a full-blown military assault there. More than 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter in the area.

Shortly after the Hamas announcement, crowds of people gathered to cheer and celebrate in Rafah.

Israel and Hamas have been engaged in indirect talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt over a potential ceasefire in the Gaza war and an exchange of Israeli captives for Palestinian prisoners.

Egyptian and Hamas officials have previously said a potential ceasefire would take place in several stages in which Hamas would release Israeli captives it is holding in exchange for Israeli troop pullbacks from Gaza.

Palestinians ‘happy’ and ‘optimistic’

Al Jazeera’s Tareq Abu Azzoum, reporting from Rafah, said people started celebrating near the Kuwaiti Hospital upon hearing the Hamas announcement.

Children and the elderly are among people cheering and chanting for a return to Gaza City, he said.

“Everyone … is happy because they believe a Rafah invasion will bring an unspeakable humanitarian catastrophe,” Abu Azzoum said. “Now they are so optimistic.”

The announcement brought “a sense of relief and tranquility” among Palestinians who are “exhausted and traumatised”, he said.

A displaced Palestinian in Rafah told Al Jazeera he hopes he would be able to go back home.

“We hope we return to our homes. … I am from Gaza [City] itself,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, DC, said “the Israelis have said they will conduct the war how they seem fit”.

“Whether the US expresses concern or anger, it has made no difference to how the Israelis are conducting this war,” Fisher said.

Alon Liel, former director general of the Israeli foreign ministry, told Al Jazeera that there is “strong pressure” on the government to send ground troops into Rafah.

“The mood here is very, very different than the mood in Gaza. Even if we have a deal, many people here will be frightened and think that we lost the war,” Liel said.

If Netanyahu accepts the deal, Liel said, it might be “the end of his political career”. And if he does not accept the deal, “we will have international calls by the UN and … sanctions”, he said.

At least 34,735 people, mostly women and children, have been killed and 78,018 wounded in Israel’s assault on Gaza since October, according to Palestinian authorities. The offensive has destroyed much of Gaza and a near-total siege has pushed parts of it on the brink of famine.

Israel launched the assault after Hamas led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies