Israel Hamas War News: Protests Resume at Gaza Aid Border Crossing

Israel Hamas War News: Protests Resume at Gaza Aid Border Crossing

As Israel and Hamas continue indirect negotiations on a ceasefire, the divide between the sides remains wide, notably on two issues: the duration of any pause in fighting and the fate of Hamas’ leaders in Gaza, according to officials briefed on the talks.

Here is an overview of the status of the negotiations.

How are the negotiations going?

A week-long truce in November resulted in the release of more than 100 hostages kidnapped during Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7; 240 Palestinian prisoners were released as part of this agreement. Since then, both sides have taken seemingly intractable positions in favor of a new such agreement.

The talks have progressed in fits and starts, with the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency meeting with Qatari officials in Qatar and Europe. Many of Hamas’s political leaders are based in Qatar. Egypt, which borders the Gaza Strip, also played a key role.

The mediators have presented several plans in recent weeks, without achieving obvious progress. The duration of a proposed ceasefire varies from a few weeks to several months. Leaks of some proposals to the press have sparked controversy in Israel, where right-wing politicians have said they would oppose plans they say would end the war prematurely.

Brett McGurk, the White House’s top Middle East coordinator, returned to the region on Sunday to work on freeing the hostages, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

What conditions are proposed for a new ceasefire?

Hamas officials say they will only release the remaining hostages in Gaza, estimated to number more than a hundred, as part of a comprehensive ceasefire. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, said Sunday that he would not accept any permanent ceasefire agreement that would leave Hamas in control of Gaza.

As part of a recent framework agreement, mediators proposed a gradual release of remaining Palestinian hostages and prisoners, with the aim of achieving a stable ceasefire, a senior Western diplomat and a regional diplomat said .

What are the sticking points?

The biggest stumbling block is whether a ceasefire would be temporary, like the previous one, or permanent.

Israeli officials have suggested they might consider a permanent ceasefire if Hamas leaders in Gaza leave the Gaza Strip and go into exile, the two diplomats said.

Hamas officials rejected the idea. “Hamas and its leaders are on their land in Gaza,” Husam Badran, a senior Hamas official, said in a text message. “We won’t leave.”

Another possible obstacle to the plan: Mr. Netanyahu said in November that he had asked Mossad “to act against Hamas leaders wherever they are,” likely raising fears within Hamas about whether leaders would be less safe outside Gaza.

What happens after the war ends?

Another avenue for negotiation concerns the future of Gaza after the silence of the guns.

Biden administration officials have said they hope the Palestinian Authority, which administers part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, will return to control Gaza. U.S. officials would like to see both areas included in a future Palestinian state.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, expelling the rival Fatah party, which dominates the Palestinian Authority. If Hamas remains in Gaza after the war, this would likely pose a formidable obstacle.

Mr. Netanyahu has largely ruled out the return of the Palestinian Authority, in its current form, to power in Gaza. He also indicated that he would oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state after the war.

To further complicate matters, the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, faces serious internal challenges. Polls consistently show that most Palestinians want Mr. Abbas to resign. He was last elected to a four-year term in 2005, and critics accuse him of presiding over an increasingly autocratic government that has failed to end Israeli rule.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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