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Hamas leaders at odds over proposed hostage release deal

Demonstrators block a main road demanding an immediate deal for the release Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip by Palestinian militants, during a protest near the Israeli Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv on February 1, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. (Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Differences among Hamas leaders are causing a snag in the Palestinian group’s support for a proposed hostage release deal in Gaza, as per a report from the Wall Street Journal. The current internal rift sees Yahya Sinwar, chief of Gaza, favoring a temporary truce, while leaders outside Gaza, led by Ismail Haniyeh, are pushing for more substantial concessions from Israel and a permanent ceasefire.

Sinwar is advocating for a six-week break in the conflict to regroup and allow aid into Gaza, while Haniyeh is emphasizing a lasting ceasefire with international assurances and a comprehensive plan for the reconstruction of the enclave.

Hamas officials are reportedly examining a proposed temporary truce deal, which includes extended breaks in fighting and exchanges of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners. However, Haniyeh’s office appears to be ruling out key components, demanding a complete cessation of fighting, Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, the end of the blockade, reconstruction, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.

A Hamas delegation visited Cairo for talks on the potential deal with Egyptian officials. The proposal, outlined during a meeting in Paris, offers a six-week pause in fighting, along with the release of hostages, though specifics vary in different reports.

An Egyptian official shared details of the proposal, involving an initial six to eight-week truce, releasing elderly hostages, women, and children in exchange for Palestinians jailed by Israel. Negotiations would continue, aid to Gaza would increase, and displaced residents could gradually return.

However, Israeli ministers expressed opposition to elements of the deal during recent war cabinet meetings. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to travel to the Middle East to facilitate negotiations and seek a pause in fighting, marking his fifth regional tour since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war.

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