Image Credit: Mohammed Salem / Reuters

Hamas presents new ceasefire proposal, Netanyahu deems demands “unrealistic”

Hamas presented a new ceasefire proposal to mediators and the US detailing a plan to release all Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners, including 100 Palestinians currently serving life sentences, according to a proposal seen by Reuters.

According to the proposal, the first stage would include the release of Israeli women, children, elderly and ill hostages in exchange for the freedom of 700-1000 Palestinians currently held in Israeli prisons. The proposal included the possible release of Israeli “female recruits”, meaning females currently enlisted in the Israeli army.

The second phase of the proposal includes setting a date for a permanent ceasefire and the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza. In response to the proposal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office commented that the proposal presented by Hamas was still setting “unrealistic demands”, although the office said it would issue an update to the war cabinet and extended security cabinet on Friday, March 16. 

Israel had last rejected a ceasefire agreement in February, citing that it will not stop the war until it has destroyed Hamas – a goal that has largely been deemed unrealistic by political analysts and spectators alike.

On its part, Hamas has said that ceasefire negotiations have reached stalemates over the past few weeks due to Netanyahu’s continuous rejection of its demands. Previous demands submitted by Hamas included the unconditional end to the war, the withdrawal of Israeli forces, and allowing internally displaced citizens to return to their homes in the north.

Hamas has refused to negotiate the rejected demands as the group has deemed them an essential part of an agreement moving forward. Israel’s war on Gaza has so far claimed the lives of over 31,000 Palestinians and wounded over 71,500. Its siege of the strip has limited the entry of humanitarian aid and its repeated targeting of hospitals has crippled the health sector.

For the past few months, Egypt and Qatar have attempted to facilitate a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas amidst a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip, which has culminated in mass displacement, widespread famine, lack of healthcare and hygiene, and more.

Officials have stated that they are working against the hour to reach a ceasefire agreement prior to the Israeli army’s military operation in Rafah, under the pretense that the army had identified “four Hamas battalions deployed there” to destroy. 

The US had previously underlined that Israel would need to facilitate the safe evacuation of civilians from Rafah before any incursion into the area, as more than one million Palestinians have fled to the designated safe zone since October 7.

As of now, the war on Gaza is in its sixth month and the UN estimates that at least 576,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of famine. An aid ship is expected to dock at Gaza today, carrying around 200 metric tons of essential supplies, including flour, rice and water.