March 4, 2024

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San Yunis continues to be fiercely contested – leaving thousands

Israel is proposing a two-month ceasefire in the more than 100-day-old Gaza war, according to a media report. News portal “Axios” reported Monday evening that the offer made to mediators from Egypt and Qatar would lead to the release of all hostages held by Islamist Hamas. The article's author, well-known and well-connected Israeli journalist Barak Ravit, quoted two unnamed Israeli government officials.

The two-month ceasefire is the largest concession by the Israeli government to date. During a week-long ceasefire in late November, Hamas released 105 hostages. In return, Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners from its prisons.

Since then, the Israeli government has shown little interest in releasing any more hostages. Criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has increased as about 25 of the abductees are now believed to be no longer alive. Last weekend, thousands of people demonstrated in Israel to demand more aggressive efforts to rescue the hostages.

Israel's offer of a two-month ceasefire does not mean an end to the war, the report said. So Israel's army will simply withdraw from the population centers. Palestinians who fled south of the Gaza Strip on orders from the Israeli army can return to the north. The Israeli proposal was approved by the War Cabinet ten days ago, “Axios” wrote.

Hamas has previously linked the release of any new hostages to ending the war. Egyptian and Qatari mediators have been trying for weeks to meet various demands. On the table is a three-step plan that would regulate the release of hostages and the cessation of hostilities. Earlier in the week, U.S. President Joe Biden's Middle East coordinator, Brett McCurg, arrived in the region for talks in Cairo and Doha, according to U.S. media reports. (DBA)

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