GAZA/DOHA: Israeli forces pounded areas in northern and southern Gaza on Wednesday after the Palestinian group Hamas said it had received and was studying a new proposal for a ceasefire and release of hostages in Gaza.
The proposal, presented by mediators after talks with Israel, appeared to be the most serious peace initiative for months in the Israel-Hamas war.
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A senior Hamas official told Reuters it involved a three-stage truce, during which the group would first release the remaining civilians among hostages it captured on Oct. 7, then soldiers, and finally the bodies of hostages that were killed.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not indicate how long the stages would last or what was envisioned to follow the final stage.
But it was the first time since the collapse of the only brief truce of the war so far, in late November, that details had been released of a new proposal being considered by both sides.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been devastated by almost four months of bombardment by Israeli forces, said any ceasefire agreement must end the war and allow them back into homes they abandoned as Israeli forces advanced.
“Any ceasefire that doesn’t end the war and return us to our homes in Gaza City and the north is not worth it,” said Ahmed, a father of six who fled his home in Gaza City in the north of the enclave for the city of Rafah in the south.
“We are exhausted. We were happy to learn about the news of a possible agreement. We hope they don’t disappoint us by signing any agreement that won’t return us to our homes and end the war,” he told Reuters by telephone.
According to Gaza’s health authorities, more than 26,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli aggression, triggered after Hamas fighters stormed into Israeli towns on Oct. 7 killing 1,200 and taking 253 hostages.
Israel’s bombardment continued on Wednesday in parts of the city of Khan Younis in the south and in districts of Gaza City, witnesses said.