'The US did not inform us': Was Israel tricked into the Gaza ceasefire deal?

'The US did not inform us': Was Israel tricked into the Gaza ceasefire deal?
Israeli officials feel they were kept in the dark about the new proposal handed to Hamas which the group said they would accept on Monday.
5 min read
07 May, 2024
Tensions have already been high between Biden and Netanyahu over the Gaza war [Getty/file photo]

Israeli officials claim to have not been briefed by Washington on the ceasefire deal proposed by mediators and accepted by Hamas on Monday.

The deal has reportedly been shunned by Israeli officials as they said it required "too many concessions" on Israel's side, adding that it was not what was previously agreed.

According to American news site Axios, a senior US official played down Israeli concerns by saying "American diplomats have been engaged with Israeli counterparts. There have been no surprises."

Relations are already tense between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Joe Biden’s administration due to the colossal death toll from Israel’s brutal war on the Gaza Strip.

"This is an extremely difficult process with negotiations conducted through intermediaries in Doha and Cairo," the unnamed US official said, as quoted by Axios.

The official added that the Biden administration sees Hamas' response as a counterproposal and not as a new proposal.

"To secure a ceasefire, Hamas simply needs to release hostages. It's all mapped out."

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Did Israel really 'get played'?

Israel is blaming the US for not informing it of the latest proposal despite reportedly knowing about it.

Two Israeli officials went as far as to say the feeling was that "Israel got played" by the US and mediators Egypt and Qatar, according to Axios.

Israeli officials who spoke to Axios claimed a "new deal" was handed to Hamas by the Egyptians over the weekend with final touches added to it on Monday, ahead of Hamas's announcement.

That new deal was allegedly "different" to the one Israel agreed to ten days ago, the officials told Axios, adding that it contained "many new elements" and "looked like a whole new proposal".

The allegations came as Hamas announced on Monday that "The ball is now in Israel's court", with media reports saying the group's positive response to the deal "caught Israel by surprise".

It saw thousands of Israelis come out in protest on Monday, urging Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire - a move his far-right government was unlikely to accept as it vowed to continue the war regardless.

Early on Tuesday, Israeli tanks were rolling into the eastern suburbs of Rafah, arriving at the Gaza-Egypt border crossing before dawn Tuesday and raising an Israeli flag there.

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What is the Egyptian-Qatari proposal?

The Qatari-Egyptian proposal which Hamas agreed to Monday evening includes three phases: ending Israel’s now seven-month offensive and releasing captives still being held by Hamas in return for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli detention.

Each phase would last about six weeks, Al Jazeera says.

The first phase would include a truce and see Israeli forces pulling out of Gaza’s urban centres towards the border fence in the east. Israel’s air force would stop conducting flights for 10 hours per day, which would increase to 12 hours once Hamas begins releasing hostages.

The Palestinian group, in the first phase, would gradually release 33 people in its captivity, whether alive or dead. Israel says some of the hostages have died; most were killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza or "mistakenly" shot dead by Israeli forces.

According to the proposal, the captives who will be released will be women, anyone over the age of 50, individuals with health complications, or non-combatants under the age of 19.

For each Israeli civilian released alive, Israel would in turn free 30 Palestinian detainees. For every female soldier released, Israel would free 50 Palestinian detainees.

As Israeli forces pull out of Gaza’s urban centres and Hamas releases hostages, displaced Palestinians will be able to return home. Reconstruction efforts will also begin, and humanitarian aid will be facilitated.   

In the second phase, the Israeli military would completely withdraw from the Gaza Strip and all hostilities would end. Another hostage-prisoner exchange will follow, with Hamas releasing all Israeli male captives, including soldiers. Israel would then release more Palestinian prisoners, but the number of these detainees is yet to be specified, according to Al Jazeera.

The third and final phase would see another hostage-prisoner swap, a years-long reconstruction place for Gaza, as well as a possible end to the Israeli blockade of the territory in place since 2007 when Hamas took power.

All eyes on Rafah

Gazans were quick to celebrate the announcement, hoping it would call off a looming Israeli invasion of Rafah in the enclave's south where more than a million Palestinians are sheltering, hundreds of thousands of them children.

But Netanyahu’s office said the war cabinet had decided unanimously to go ahead with the offensive in Rafah "in order to apply military pressure on Hamas, with the goal of making progress on freeing the hostages and the other war aims," as quoted by The Times of Israel.

A statement by Netanyahu’s office said Hamas' latest offer was "far from [meeting] Israel’s essential requirements."

Despite this, Israel would still send delegations to continue talks with Qatari and Egyptian mediators "to exhaust any possibility of achieving an agreement on terms that are acceptable to Israel," The Times of Israel reported.

Exacerbating the situation, Netanyahu said last month an assault on Rafah will take place whether a ceasefire agreement is reached or not.

Acting on its threats, and after a night of airstrikes, Israel on Tuesday took over the Rafah border crossing for the first time since 2005 when it withdrew from the Gaza Strip.

World leaders, the UN, and NGOs are warning of a bloodbath and catastrophic consequences for the civilian population if Israel invades Rafah.

Israel's military offensive, which began on 7 October, has already killed over 34,700 people - 70 percent of them women and children.