Hamas proposes new six-week Gaza truce, hostage-prisoner exchange: Official

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Hamas has proposed a new six-week truce in Gaza and an exchange of several dozen Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, an official from the militant group told AFP on Friday.

“The agreement is for a six-week ceasefire and a prisoner exchange,” the official said after weeks of so far fruitless mediation efforts, adding that the group would want this to lead to “a complete (Israeli) withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and a permanent ceasefire.”

During the proposed truce, Gaza militants would release about 42 hostages seized during the October 7 attack that triggered the war in Gaza, the official said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

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The official said that between 20 and 50 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails would be released per hostage - down from a previous proposal of a roughly 100-to-one ratio, according to a Hamas source in late February.

Under the new proposal, the initial exchange could include women, children, elderly and ill hostages, the official said.

During the October 7 attack, militants seized about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, dozens of whom were released during a week-long truce in November. Israel believes about 130 captives remain in Gaza including 32 presumed dead.

The latest proposal appears to be a shift for Hamas, whose armed wing said earlier this month there would be “no compromise” on its demand that Israel withdraw from Gaza before any more hostages are freed.

Now the militants are saying that, during a six-week truce, Israeli forces would need to withdraw from “all cities and populated areas in the Gaza Strip” and allow for the return of displaced Gazans “without restrictions,” the official said.

The Hamas proposal also calls to ramp up the flow of humanitarian aid, the official added.

The terms of an eventual ceasefire would see Israel’s “complete military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip” and a comprehensive hostage-for-prisoner exchange involving the release of all hostages for “an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners,” according to the official.

Egypt and Qatar, along with the United States, are responsible for following up and ensuring the implementation of the agreement,” the official said.

Hamas’s October 7 attack killed about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign to destroy Hamas has killed at least 31,490 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

Israel has so far refused to withdraw from Gaza, saying such a move would amount to victory for Hamas.

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said late Thursday that Hamas “is continuing to hold unrealistic demands” but that an update on truce talks would be submitted to Israel’s war cabinet on Friday.

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