Israel Gives Hamas One Week to Accept Gaza Truce as Rafah Offensive Looms

Israel and Hamas are in intense negotiations to end the seven-month war in Gaza, with a leaked truce proposal suggesting compromises from both sides. The proposal aims to prevent Israel's impending ground invasion of Rafah, which humanitarian organizations warn could put hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk.

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Hadeel Hashem
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Israel Gives Hamas One Week to Accept Gaza Truce as Rafah Offensive Looms

Israel Gives Hamas One Week to Accept Gaza Truce as Rafah Offensive Looms

Israel and Hamas are engaged in intensive negotiations mediated by Egypt, Qatar, and the United States to end the nearly seven-month war in Gaza and secure the return of Israeli hostages. A leaked truce proposal suggests compromises from both sides after months of stalled talks, aiming to prevent Israel's impending ground invasion of the southern Gaza city of Rafah. Humanitarian organizations warn an offensive could put the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk and severely disrupt aid operations across the Gaza Strip.

Why this matters: The outcome of these negotiations will have far-reaching consequences for the Middle East peace process and the humanitarian situation in Gaza, with the potential to either bring a measure of stability to the region or exacerbate an already dire crisis. A failure to reach a truce could lead to a significant escalation of violence, further destabilizing the region and putting countless lives at risk.

The initial 40-day stage of the truce plan would see Hamas release female civilian hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israeli troops would withdraw from a key coastal road in Gaza, allowing humanitarian aid to enter and displaced civilians to return home. Hamas would also provide a positive list of hostages still alive during this period. Within three weeks, indirect negotiations would begin to restore a permanent calm between the two sides.

The second six-week phase seeks to finalize arrangements for a lasting truce, including the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas in exchange for more Palestinian prisoners and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from central Gaza. The third and final stage involves the release of the remains of deceased hostages, additional prisoner exchanges, and the start of a five-year reconstruction plan, with Hamas agreeing not to rebuild its military arsenal.

The success of the truce proposal hinges on significant concessions from both sides. Hamas would need to give up its biggest bargaining chip – the hostages – in exchange for a long-term end to fighting. Israel wants to see all remaining captives returned safely, with Hamas and other militant groups crushed on the battlefield and expelled from power in Gaza. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised Israel for offering "significant concessions" and urged Hamas to "seal the deal."

However, the plan faces challenges and opposition from various quarters. The Biden administration has warned Israel against a Rafah invasion unless it provides a credible plan for protecting civilians, fearing a flood of Palestinian refugees into Egyptian territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also faces domestic pressure, with hard-liners in his Cabinet threatening to bring down the government if he ends the war without decisively defeating Hamas.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains dire with the prospect of an Israeli offensive in Rafah threatening to escalate. Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN Humanitarian Office (OCHA), warned that an Israeli incursion into the city" could be a slaughter of civilians and an incredible blow to the humanitarian operation in the entire strip. "Aid operations in Rafah include medical clinics, warehouses stocked with supplies, food distribution points, and centers for acutely malnourished children. The World Health Organisation has prepared a contingency plan but cautions it would be insufficient to prevent a substantial rise in casualties.

The war in Gaza, which began in October 2023, has already exacted a heavy toll. Over 34,000 Palestinians have been killed in nearly seven months of conflict, according to Gaza's health ministry. The fighting has caused an estimated $18.5 billion in damage, with a recent UN report indicating it would take until 2040 to rebuild all the homes destroyed. Gaza was already struggling with a 45% unemployment rate before the war began.

As Israel's one-week ultimatum for Hamas to accept the truce proposal draws to a close, the international community is urging both sides to seize this opportunity for peace. The coming days will be pivotal in determining whether the guns fall silent or the cycle of violence continues with renewed intensity. Jens Laerke of OCHA encapsulated the gravity of the situation, warning that an Israeli offensive in Rafah" could be a slaughter of civilians and an incredible blow to the humanitarian operation in the entire strip."

Key Takeaways

  • Israel and Hamas are in talks for a truce to end the 7-month Gaza war.
  • The proposed deal involves prisoner exchanges and humanitarian aid.
  • Hamas would release hostages, and Israel would withdraw troops from Gaza.
  • A failure to reach a truce could lead to a devastating ground invasion.
  • The humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire, with 34,000 Palestinians killed so far.