TOPSHOT – A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment on January 19, 2024, amid ongoing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hamas has proposed a ceasefire plan that would quiet the guns in Gaza for four-and-a-half months leading to an end to the war, in response to a proposal sent last week by Qatari and Egyptian mediators and backed by the United States and Israel.
According to a draft document seen by Reuters, the Hamas counterproposal envisions three phases lasting 45 days each.
The proposal would see militants exchange remaining Israeli hostages they captured on Oct. 7 for Palestinian prisoners. The reconstruction of Gaza would begin, Israeli forces would withdraw completely, and bodies and remains would be exchanged.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived overnight in Israel after meeting the leaders of mediators Qatar and Egypt in the most serious diplomatic push of the war so far aimed at reaching an extended truce. Details of Hamas’s counteroffer have not previously been reported.
According to the Hamas counterproposal, all Israeli women hostages, males under 19, the elderly and sick would be released during the first 45-day phase in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.
Remaining male hostages would be released during the second phase, and remains exchanged in the third phase. By the end of the third phase, Hamas would expect the sides to have reached agreement on an end to the war.
The group, which governs Gaza, said in an addendum to the proposal that it wished for the release of 1500 prisoners, a third of whom it wanted to select from the a list of Palestinians handed life sentences by Israel.
The truce would also increase the flow of food and other aid to Gaza’s desperate civilians who are facing hunger and dire shortages of basic supplies.
Israel began its military offensive in Gaza after militants from Hamas-ruled Gaza killed 1,200 people and took 253 hostages in southern Israel on Oct. 7. Gaza’s Health Ministry says at least 27,585 Palestinians have been confirmed killed in Israel’s military campaign, with thousands more feared buried under rubble.