By John Ikani
Fresh initiatives presented by Egypt to bring an end to the conflict in Gaza encompass a lasting ceasefire, a gradual Israeli retreat from the coastal region, and a proposed exchange of detainees and hostages, starting with the release of civilians currently held by Hamas.
The draft, revealed to The National on Wednesday, represents the latest effort by Egyptian mediators after a previous version failed to gain traction in the 12-week-long conflict.
While aligning with reports from Egyptian security sources, this draft introduces additional specifics not found in previous leaks. It appears tailored to address initial reservations expressed by Hamas, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.
The initial phase of the plan outlines a ‘humanitarian deal’ spanning 10 days following a two-day truce, during which both sides will negotiate the release of hostages and prisoners indirectly.
Egyptian, American, and Qatari mediators will facilitate these talks in Egypt. Simultaneously, a comprehensive cessation of hostilities, including Israel’s aerial activities, will be observed.
Hamas is expected to release women, the elderly, children, and ailing hostages in exchange for a proportional number of Palestinians to be freed from Israeli prisons.
Moving into the second phase, the plan calls for the Israeli forces’ withdrawal from urban areas in Gaza within a one-month timeframe.
During this period, Israel and Hamas will negotiate the release of all military personnel held by Hamas, as well as the freedom of a specified number of Palestinian prisoners.
According to Egyptian officials, this revised draft omits certain details leaked by security sources, such as Hamas relinquishing control of Gaza, the exact number of hostages and prisoners to be released, and the post-conflict fate of Gaza.
The draft also designates a monitoring role to Egypt, the United States, and Qatar for overseeing the plan’s implementation. However, officials caution that the text is subject to further amendments based on the stakeholders’ evolving positions.
While the Egyptian proposals are seen as a positive development, the U.S. remains sceptical about their potential for a breakthrough, according to officials.
The situation remains fluid, with ongoing deliberations and potential modifications to address the concerns of all parties involved.