Gaza ceasefire talks: What are Israel and Hamas saying?

While Hamas is pushing for permanent ceasefire, Israel still plans to invade Rafah amid mounting international pressure.

Palestinians gather to receive free food as Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger, during the holy month of Ramadan, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip
Gaza residents face crisis levels of hunger during the holy month of Ramadan [Mahmoud Issa/Reuters]

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to the Middle East to push for a ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel as more than five months of relentless Israeli bombardment has pushed Gaza towards famine.

Blinken is expected to meet leaders in Saudi Arabia and Egypt this week to discuss ongoing Hamas-Israel talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt as well as the release of captives from Gaza.

Though Mossad chief David Barena has already left Doha, the venue of the negotiations, the Israeli delegation is still in the Qatari capital for the talks. So, where do the negotiations stand?

What terms did Hamas propose for the Gaza truce?

Late last week, Hamas presented a proposal for a potential truce deal to mediators.

Here are some of the key terms of the proposal:

  • Israeli captives would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, 100 of whom are serving life sentences. Nearly 100 captives are believed to be in the custody of Hamas and other Palestinian factions.
  • The ceasefire would be divided into three stages each lasting 42 days.
  • During the first stage, Israeli forces must withdraw from al-Rashid and Salah al-Din streets – the two main highways connecting the south to the north – to allow for the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes and delivery of aid to Gaza.
  • Captives released first would be women and children.
  • In exchange, 700-1,000 Palestinian prisoners would be released.
  • Hamas said that for the release of one Israeli female reservist captive, 50 Palestinian prisoners of its choosing, including 30 who are serving life sentences, should be freed. More than 200 Palestinian prisoners and 80 Israeli captives were released as part of a one-week truce in November. However, many of the Palestinians have since been rearrested.
  • In the second phase, a permanent ceasefire must be declared before any more captives are released.
  • The third stage would involve Israel lifting its siege on Gaza, and initiating the rebuilding of the enclave.

What is Israel saying?

In response to the latest Hamas truce offer, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was still based on “unrealistic demands”.

Netanyahu has said that Israel still plans to invade Rafah, the last and southern most refuge of Palestinians who fled months of Israeli bombardment, to realise its goal of defeating Hamas. But his plan has faced opposition from Arab nations, aid agencies as well its closest ally, Washington.

One fundamental disagreement between the two sides is that Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire while Israel insists on the ‘total eradication of Hamas’.

Israel has faced global condemnation for its war tactics, under which Gaza has been placed under a total blockade and very little effort has been made to differentiate between civilians and armed fighters. More than 31,000 people, including 12,300 children, have been killed since October 7. More children have been killed in Gaza in the past five months than in conflicts worldwide over the past four years.


Qatar has confirmed that David Barnea, chief of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad, met Egyptian and Qatari mediators for renewed negotiations on Monday, before departing from Doha on Tuesday.

What have Palestinian leaders said?

Palestinian National Initiative Secretary-General Mustafa Barghouti told Al Jazeera on March 15 that the latest Hamas proposal is “much more flexible and forthcoming” compared with previous ones set forth during early and late February.

Barghouti said he expects Netanyahu to impose “every possible obstacle to prevent this deal from taking place because he knows that once this war is over, he will be going to prison. He knows very well that he will be accused of failure on October 7, but also four cases of corruption are waiting for him”.

What has been the international reaction?

Mediators Qatar, Egypt and the United States have spent weeks trying to narrow differences between Israel and Hamas over what a ceasefire would look like amid the deepening humanitarian crisis with the entire population in Gaza facing hunger and famine.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said on March 15 that Cairo is seeking to reach a ceasefire, ramp up aid deliveries to the strip and allow for displaced Palestinians in the south and centre of the enclave to move back to the north. El-Sisi also warned against Israel’s ground invasion of Rafah – home to 1.4 million Palestinians, most of them displaced by the war.

British Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden on Tuesday defended Israel’s right to protect itself, while simultaneously calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza. Legal experts have questioned Israel’s right to defence as an occupying power.

US Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish official in the US, who has been a longtime supporter of Israel, has called for new elections in Israel, casting Netanyahu an obstacle to peace. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Netanyahu must be “ill-informed” of the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.

US President Joe Biden warned Netanyahu on Monday that a Rafah operation would deepen anarchy in Gaza. Israel has since sent a team to Washington to discuss its Rafah plans. Last weekend, Biden pledged to work towards securing a ceasefire during a meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Washington.

A spokesman for the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Majed al-Ansari, said at a news conference on Tuesday that an Israeli ground operation in Rafah would set back any discussions of a ceasefire.

What’s at stake?

The latest rounds of truce talks kicked off in late February, but so far the negotiators have struggled to narrow the differences between Israel and Hamas.

Israel was willing to accept a temporary truce for exchange of Palestinian prisoners for captives during late February. Israeli media quoted officials talking about a six-week truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

More than a week into Ramadan, negotiations have yet to witness a breakthrough.

There are growing calls for a ceasefire as a UN-backed report on Sunday said famine was imminent. Aid groups have pointed the finger of blame on Israel, which has been carrying bombardment and blocking of aid into Gaza.

Nour Shawaf, the Middle East and North Africa policy adviser at Oxfam, told Al Jazeera on Monday: “As long as we do not see a ceasefire in place that would allow humanitarian operations to scale up to deliver aid into Gaza and North Gaza specifically, with an exponential increase of this type of assistance, then we are going to be seeing a very catastrophic scenario in front of our eyes as the world watches.”

“Oxfam believes that people living in Gaza will suffer mass death from disease and starvation far beyond the current 31,000 Palestinian war casualties unless Israel takes immediate steps to end its violations”, said the NGO in a press release published on Monday.

Source: Al Jazeera