Hamas Accepts Gaza Truce Deal as Israel Readies Rafah Operation

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Smoke rises from the Gaza Strip after Israeli strikes in a Northern part of the enclave on Monday, 6 May 2024. (Business Insider)

On Monday, Hamas finally accepted a ceasefire deal amidst a deteriorating humanitarian crisis and an intense seven-month war that has left over 34,000 people dead, a large proportion of which are women and children. It comes after months of negotiations between Israeli and Hamas delegates, mediated by Egyptian officials, and at a crucial time as Israel moots a long-awaited Rafah offensive.

In fact, on Sunday, Israel ordered residents of Eastern Rafah to evacuate ‘immediately’, and began strikes in the southern part of the Strip. The US and most of Israel’s Western allies remain staunchly opposed to a potential Rafah operation, citing the plausible risk of immense civilian casualties in the densely populated area where many of Gaza’s northern residents fled to away from the heavy fighting in the North. As of this writing, Israel has stated it is ‘exploring’ the ceasefire deal and it is unclear where its planned Rafah offensive will go ahead.

The timing of Hamas’ approval of the deal is without a doubt linked to the potential Rafah operation; Hamas has long been testing Israel’s limits and its resolve to follow through on its claims. Egypt and Qatar, the two countries with the most sway over Hamas’ actions, have long been pressuring the group to accept the deal.

The deal stipulates a pause in the hostilities on both sides, and that Hamas will release hostage in exchange for Palestinians jailed in Israeli prisons. Thus far, the Israeli public has been very vocal about their view that the Israeli government has not focused enough effort on the release of hostages. Another key part of the deal is the facilitation of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, which the UN describes as, “on the brink of famine”. Both the release of hostages and the flow of aid into the strip will alleviate domestic and international pressure on Israel, who have been criticized for the significant number of civilian casualties on the Palestinian side.

Moreover, over prospects for the longer-term, the deal will see negotiations between Hamas and Israeli officials continue, for the potential release of more hostages and a possible extension of the ceasefire. Several countries have lauded the deal as a stride towards peace in the region, yet the humanitarian crisis in Gaza remains dire and questions prevail over the future governance of the enclave.

Written by Rakan Pharaon

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