GAZA CITY: Hamas has given its “initial” approval to a planned humanitarian pause in Gaza Strip and a prisoner exchange with Israel, a Qatari official said on Thursday.
But a source close to Hamas said there was no agreement yet on the proposal. “There is no agreement on the framework of the agreement yet as the factions have important observations and the Qatari statement is rushed and not true,” the source explained.
The source had said earlier this week after a meeting in Paris that Hamas is reviewing a three-stage plan which would start with a six-week halt to the fighting and more aid deliveries into Gaza Strip. Officials from the United States, Egypt, Israel and Qatar had attended the meeting.
Only “women, children and sick men over 60” held by Gaza fighters would be freed during that stage in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, the source said.
There would also be “negotiations around the withdrawal of Israeli forces”, with possible additional phases involving more prisoner exchanges, said the source.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out withdrawing troops from Gaza and has repeatedly vowed to destroy Hamas.
Netanyahu has also opposed releasing thousands“ of Palestinian prisoners as part of any deal.
Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was expected in Cairo on Friday for consultations on proposals discussed in Paris.
In Doha, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari said: “The meeting in Paris succeeded in consolidating the (ceasefire) proposals.”
“That proposal has been approved by the Israeli side and now we have an initial positive confirmation from the Hamas side.”
119 killed in Israeli strikes
The Israeli army said on Thursday troops had destroyed a long-range missile launcher in the embattled southern city of Khan Yunis.
According to the health ministry in Gaza, 119 people were killed in the latest night of strikes, while aid and health workers have for days reported heavy fighting.
“There is a massacre taking place right now,” said Leo Cans of international aid group Doctors Without Borders.
The UN also reported heavy bombardment across Gaza, particularly in Khan Yunis, while it said 184,000 more Palestinians from the city had registered to receive humanitarian assistance after fleeing their homes in recent days.