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The latest Israel-Hamas cease-fire proposal drops details of future governance of Gaza

An Israeli battle tank moves along the border between the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on Wednesday as battles between Israel and Hamas continue.
Jack Guez
AFP via Getty Images
An Israeli battle tank moves along the border between the Gaza Strip and southern Israel on Wednesday as battles between Israel and Hamas continue.

TEL AVIV, Israel — A revised Egyptian proposal to end the fighting in Gaza calls for an extended humanitarian cease-fire, and leaves open the question of the shape of future Palestinian governance of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The new draft is the latest version of a plan floated earlier this week. It was obtained by NPR from a Palestinian official and confirmed by an Egyptian source close to the cease-fire negotiations. It aims to chart a path to the end of hostilities: getting more aid into Gaza, exchanging more Israeli hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian detainees in Israeli jails, and bringing to a close Israel's devastating air-and-ground campaign in Gaza.

Since Hamas' Oct. 7 attacks on southern Israel that Israeli officials say killed more than 1,200 people and resulted in 240 being seized as hostages, the Israeli military has killed more than 21,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza's health ministry.

An Israeli official said that Israel's war cabinet discussed the initial Egyptian proposal late Monday, after it had been publicly reported on by several news organizations, adding to the public pressure Israel faces to wind down the current phase of the war due to the high civilian death toll and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.

Egyptian officials gave Palestinian leaders in the West Bank the revised version of the proposal late Tuesday, and Palestinian leaders were set to meet in Egypt in the coming days to discuss it further, a Palestinian official said. Hamas and Islamic Jihad support the outlines of the proposal, the Egyptian source close to the talks said.

The proposal could provide a road map pointing a way forward, but a final deal is likely to be far away.

Highlights of Egypt's latest cease-fire proposal

In the first stage, lasting 10 days, there would be a complete cessation of hostilities by both Israel and Hamas. Hamas would release all civilians in its possession and Israel would release a mutually agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners. Israeli forces would withdraw from residential areas in Gaza and allow freedom of movement for citizens from south to north, as well as the movement of vehicles and trucks. It would also allow freedom of entry for humanitarian aid, including medicines, medical supplies, fuel and food to all areas of Gaza.

In a 7-day stage to follow, Hamas would release all Israeli female conscripts it holds in exchange for more Palestinian detainees and prisoners. The deal would also involve the transfer of all bodies held by both sides since the start of operations.

A final stage envisions "negotiations lasting for up to one month regarding the release of all Israeli (male) conscripts held by Hamas in exchange for an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons." Israeli forces would redeploy outside Gaza's borders, according to the proposal, with the continued cessation of all aerial activities, and Hamas would commit to a complete cessation of all military activities against Israel.

A plume smoke erupts over the northern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment from southern Israel on Wednesday.
Jack Guez / AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
A plume smoke erupts over the northern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment from southern Israel on Wednesday.

It is unclear if Israel is willing to negotiate based on this proposal. Previous negotiations have been led by Qatar, which helped broker a week-long cease-fire in late November that led to the exchange of 105 hostages held by Hamas for some 240 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Earlier plan mapped out new governance plan for Gaza

The original Egyptian plan reported on earlier this week called for a new governing body of Palestinians to oversee both the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza. It would direct the postwar reconstruction of Gaza and provide for possible future elections to create a national unity government.

That part of the plan has been dropped from the latest two-page version of the proposal, but the future Palestinian leadership was expected to be discussed in talks with Egypt and is expected to be a crucial part of any agreement.

Hamas in a statement did not reject the latest proposal outright, saying it "has received initiatives and proposals from several countries" for a permanent truce.

"Our people do not await temporary truces that the occupation violates with further massacres and heinous war crimes against civilians and the innocent," the Islamist militant group said.

The Palestinian Authority leadership in the West Bank welcomed the latest Egyptian cease-fire proposal. In remarks Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said any proposal for the future leadership in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must not circumvent the internationally recognized Palestine Liberation Organization, or PLO. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the current Palestinian leadership has failed to condemn the Oct. 7 attacks and is unfit to govern Gaza.

Israel offered no immediate public response to the revised plan.

Obstacles continue to hinder aid deliveries to Gaza

The latest diplomatic efforts came as Gaza was recovering from yet another communications blackout. Although cell phone and internet service is being gradually restored, it had been out for an extended period, according to the primary provider there. On Tuesday night, the telecommunications company PalTel announced that damaged infrastructure had resulted in service interruption.

Humanitarian agencies and first responders say that without internet or cell phone service, aide workers aren't able to distribute aid.

Telecommunications is just one obstacle that the United Nations says is making it increasingly difficult to provide aid to Gaza's 2.3 million people, more than 85% of whom have become internally displaced since the start of the war. Intensified fighting, blocked roads and lack of fuel also have contributed to the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Speaking to NPR's Morning Edition on Tuesday, Juliette Touma, a spokesperson for UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency focused on the Palestinian situation in Gaza, said the humanitarian situation in Gaza was becoming more dire by the moment.

"The needs on the ground are huge," she said. "People [have] lost everything, and they need everything."

"Now, with the rainy season, it's everything from warm clothes to blankets. But most urgently is food and water and I think above all is protection and safety," Touma said.

Aya Batrawy contributed from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.
Jason DeRose
Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.