Israel Offers Substantial 2-Month Gaza Ceasefire For Release Of All Hostages

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Jan 22, 2024 - 11:40 PM

In a huge and surprise development, Israel has made a substantial proposal for a new ceasefire deal that includes multiple phases at the end of which all remaining hostages held in Gaza would be released. The negotiations front has been quiet and considered to be a failure for the past couple months, leading to general pessimism that Israel had a new proposal in the works. At the same time the Red Sea crisis and damage to global shipping through the vital transit waterway has reached a boiling point.

Israeli officials have confirmed the deal on the table to Axios, which has involved Qatari and Egyptian mediators, but it's still too early to know whether Hamas will seriously contemplate it, given continued fierce ground fighting happening in the southern Strip, focused particularly on the city of Khan Younis. Yet it's a rare hopeful sign after weeks of regional escalation and worsening news.

Axios writes in the breaking Monday report that "While the proposal doesn't include an agreement to end the war, it is the longest period of ceasefire that Israel has offered Hamas since the start of the war." The proposed deal envisions a two-month long pause in fighting.

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Presumably the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) would not retreat from their positions in northern Gaza, but would likely initiate some degree of pullback in the south. Aerial bombardment would cease, but it would also require Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) to halt their rockets launched into southern Israel.

Over 130 hostages still remain in Gaza, though there are fears some could have already died or have been executed. Inside Israel, domestic pressure is growing on the Netanyahu government to strike a deal. Increasingly large and angry protests have been sustained, led by victims' families who have demanded that Netanyahu gain captives' freedom at any cost.

Of the some 250 people kidnapped on Oct.7, there were 105 freed back in November as a result of Qatari-mediated negotiations. Of the rest which remained in captivity, the Israeli miliary has since said that 31 have died or been executed. Three of these were killed in a tragic friendly fire incident which outraged Israeli society. All of this has contributed pressure on the government to offer a serious proposal.

Israeli officials have been cited as saying their outlook remains "cautiously optimistic." Biden's envoy Brett McGurk is in Egypt working with Qatar and other parties on hammering out the deal. According to more of the details via Axios

  • Under the proposed deal, Israel and Hamas would agree in advance on how many Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli hostage in each category and then separate negotiations on the names of these prisoners would take place, the officials said.
  • The Israeli officials said the proposal includes Israel redeploying Israeli Defense Forces so that some would be moved out of main population centers in the enclave and allowing a gradual return of Palestinian civilians to Gaza city and the northern Gaza strip as the deal is being implemented.
  • The Israeli officials said the proposal makes clear Israel will not agree to end the war and will not agree to release all 6,000 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.

The Israelis have yet to promise that will halt all military actions, but targeting would likely become more focused and smaller in scale. In the November deal, which included a successful ceasefire that held for a week, hundreds of Palestinians were freed from Israeli prisons.

A key reason why it wasn't extended is that Israeli leaders accused Hamas of seeking to separate family members. Israel said that in separating children from their mothers, Hamas was seeking to inject last-minute leverage. The November ceasefire collapsed and wasn't renewed over disagreements regarding which hostage groups would be freed in follow-up rounds. 

Thus even if Hamas is amenable to this new deal on the table, the two sides would have to agree on which hostages go free in specific phases. Hamas is also likely to push for multiple thousands of Palestinians to be let from from jails, if not all of them. And Tel Aviv has already said that is a non-starter.

Gaza's health ministry has meanwhile said the Gaza death toll has surpassed 25,000 - and is made up of mostly civilians. For this reason Israel finds itself under increasing scrutiny and isolation from the "international community" - but the US and UK have stuck firmly by its side, and are even stepping up intelligence assistance and surveillance drone flights over the Strip. 

If the brakes don't get applied to the Gaza war anytime soon, the ongoing regional spillover could explode into a huge regional conflagration with unforeseen consequences...

If there actually were a two-month pause, this could mean a good chance of a lasting peace. However, Netanyahu shows no signs of backing down from his ultimate war aim of completely eradicating Hamas. Regardless, a substantive and far-reaching offer of a deal in and of itself helps him politically at this tense moment.

At this point it's entirely unclear how many battlefield losses Hamas has suffered, but it's likely in the thousands, yet by all account the jihadist militant group remains intact, and is effectively using the vast Gaza tunnel network in guerilla and insurgent operations.