Palestinians celebrate as Hamas accepts proposed ceasefire for Gaza

Thousands of Palestinians celebrated in various areas in the Gaza Strip on Monday evening, shortly after Hamas accepted a proposed ceasefire with Israel.

Video clips shared on social media platforms showed thousands staging marches in the cities of Rafah and Khan Younis in southern Gaza and the central city of Deir al-Balah.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh conveyed his group’s approval of the proposal during phone calls with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel, the group added in a statement.

Deputy Head of Hamas in Gaza, Khalil Al-Hayya, told Al Jazeera: “The proposal presented to us by the mediators in Qatar and Egypt includes three phases, including a complete withdrawal from Gaza, the return of displaced persons, and an exchange of prisoners.

“The proposal includes an exchange of prisoners in three stages, including the release of 30 individuals of the same category from the prisons of the occupation according to seniority…

“The proposal includes in its second phase the direct announcement of a permanent cessation of military and hostile operations.

“The mediators told us that the American president is clearly committed to ensuring the implementation of the agreement. The ball is now in the court of the Israeli occupation. We informed the mediators of our agreement to the ceasefire proposal in full.

“In this agreement, we have achieved the objectives of a ceasefire, the return of displaced persons, relief, and a serious prisoner exchange deal.”

The approval came in the wake of Israeli forces issuing evacuation orders for Palestinians in eastern neighborhoods of the city of Rafah in southern Gaza, a step widely seen as a prelude to starting Israel’s long-threatened attack on the city, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians seeking refuge from the war.

Egypt’s state-run Al-Qahera News channel, citing a well-placed source, said early on Monday that a Hamas delegation will arrive in Cairo on Tuesday to continue Gaza cease-fire talks.

The Hamas delegation left the Egyptian capital on Sunday after a two-day round of ceasefire talks for consultations with the group’s leadership.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip in retaliation for a cross-border attack led by Hamas, which killed about 1,200 people. More than 34,700 Palestinians have since been killed in Gaza, the vast majority of whom have been women and children, and 78,100 others injured, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Nearly seven months into the Israeli war, vast swathes of Gaza lay in ruins, pushing 85% of the enclave’s population into internal displacement amid a crippling blockade of food, clean water and medicine, according to the UN.

Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice. An interim ruling in January said it is “plausible” that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza, and ordered Tel Aviv to stop such acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

SOURCE: AA and 5Pillars

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