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What is the Gaza ceasefire deal and how would it work?

Israel has offered Hamas a ceasefire deal to end the war in Gaza, Joe Biden has announced.

Mr Biden outlined the proposal’s three phases during a surprise address at the White House on Friday.

Here’s a look at what we know about the deal so far, how it compares with previous proposals and how both sides have reacted to the US president’s address.

First phase

This would be a “full and complete ceasefire” lasting six weeks, Mr Biden said, adding it would see Israeli forces withdraw from all densely populated areas of Gaza.

During this time, Hamas would release an unspecified number of hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israel says around 100 hostages are still captive in Gaza, along with the bodies of around 30 more.

American hostages would be released at this stage, the US president said, adding the remains of some hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families.

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Palestinian civilians would return to their homes and neighbourhoods across Gaza and humanitarian assistance would surge during the first phase, with 600 trucks being allowed into Gaza each day.

He said Israel and Hamas would negotiate a permanent end to the fighting while this ceasefire was in place. If the negotiations were to take longer than six weeks, the ceasefire would continue for as long as it takes to strike a deal, he added.

Second phase

Mr Biden described this as a “permanent end to hostilities”.

It would include the release of all remaining living Israeli hostages, including male soldiers, and Israel would withdraw all its forces from Gaza.

The president admitted there were “a number of details to negotiate to move from phase one to phase two”.

Third phase

The final phase calls for the start of a major reconstruction of Gaza, which faces decades of rebuilding from devastation caused by the war.

Any final remains of hostages who have been killed would be returned to their families.

What has Israel said?

The office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, released a statement on X after Mr Biden’s address.

It read: “The government of Israel is united in its desire to return the hostages as soon as possible and is working to achieve this goal.

Palestinians inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Damages seen on Friday after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip. Pic: Reuters

Palestinians inspect the damages after Israeli forces withdrew from a part of Jabalia refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip
Pic: Reuters
Image:
Pic: Reuters

“The prime minister authorised the negotiating team to present a proposal to that end, which would also enable Israel to continue the war until all its objectives are achieved, including the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities.

“The actual proposal put forward by Israel, including the conditional transition from one phase to the next, allows Israel to uphold these principles.”

While Mr Netanyahu’s office confirmed he authorised negotiators to present the deal, sources close to the Israeli prime minister have told Sky News they do not “wholly recognise or agree with” the proposal outlined by Mr Biden.

In a further statement on Saturday morning, Mr Netanyahu’s office said: “Israel’s conditions for ending the war have not changed: the destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capabilities, the freeing of all hostages and ensuring that Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel.

“Under the proposal, Israel will continue to insist these conditions are met before a permanent ceasefire is put in place. The notion that Israel will agree to a permanent ceasefire before these conditions are fulfilled is a non-starter.”

Israel’s government has always maintained its objective in the Gaza offensive is to annihilate Hamas, which rules Gaza, in response to the rampage by the group on 7 October.

What has Hamas said?

The militant group said it “views positively” what was included in Mr Biden’s speech, adding it will deal “constructively with any proposal based on a permanent ceasefire, complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, reconstruction, the return of the displaced to all their places of residence, and the completion of a serious prisoner exchange deal if the occupation declares its explicit commitment to that”.

Pic: Reuters
A man looks on as Palestinians inspect a tent camp damaged in an Israeli strike during an Israeli military operation, in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, May 28, 2024. REUTERS/Hatem Khaled TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Palestinians in the ruins of their tent camp in Rafah after an Israeli strike. Pic: Reuters

How does this compare to the last ceasefire proposal?

Hamas claimed it agreed to a ceasefire deal proposed by Egypt and Qatar last month, which was similarly said to have three phases.

That proposal came after two days of talks in Cairo, with a delegation from Hamas – and intermediaries from Egypt, Qatar and the United States.

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A senior Biden administration official who briefed reporters on Friday said the ceasefire deal Israel has agreed to now is “nearly identical to Hamas’s own proposals of only a few weeks ago”.

But Mr Netanyahu’s office previously said the truce proposal published by Hamas fell short of its demands, and an Israeli official described the Hamas deal announcement as “a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal”.

Here’s what Hamas claimed the proposal last month would have looked like:

First phase

Fighting would have paused for 42 days and Hamas would have released 33 hostages, including the remaining Israeli women – both civilians and soldiers – as well as people under age 19 who weren’t soldiers, adults over 50 and people who were ill.

Israel would have released 30 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for each Israeli civilian hostage and 50 in exchange for each female soldier.

The aftermath of the Israeli strike on te tent camp in Tel al Sultan, Rafah Pic: AP
Image:
The aftermath of the Israeli strike on tent camp in Tel al Sultan, Rafah. Pic: AP

IDF troops would have started withdrawing from Gaza in phases and displaced Palestinians would begin returning to their home neighbourhoods.

Israel would allow “intensive and sufficient quantities” of humanitarian aid, with 600 trucks entering Gaza daily.

Second phase

This would also have lasted 42 days, but similarly to the new proposal, the exact terms of this phase would need to be negotiated during the first.

Hamas said it may have entailed the release of all the remaining Israeli men, both civilians and soldiers, in Gaza. In return, Israel could have freed an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners and detainees.

But the group said all Israeli troops must have withdrawn from Gaza in order for the second phase to begin.

Third phase

This would have included the release of the remains of deceased hostages still in Gaza, more prisoners held by Israel, and the start of a five-year reconstruction plan, Hamas claimed.

Hamas also wanted an end to the blockade on Gaza by Israel in cooperation with Egypt at this point.

The plan also stated Hamas would agree not to rebuild its military arsenal.

Has there been a ceasefire since Israel’s offensive began?

There was a temporary ceasefire in place from 24 November to 1 December last year.

During that time, 79 Israeli hostages were released by Hamas, with hundreds of Palestinians freed from prisons in exchange.

International mediators – including diplomats from Qatar, Egypt and the US – had been working to extend the temporary truce, but reaching agreements on hostage releases became harder as most women and children had already been released.

Israel’s military ultimately resumed combat in Gaza on 1 December after accusing Hamas of violating the seven-day truce.

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