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Hamas accepts ceasefire; Israel strikes Rafah

Hamas announced on May 6 that its leaders have told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that they accepted the most recent Gaza ceasefire proposal. Israel's war cabinet responded by voting to continue the planned military operation in Rafah, and the IDF carried out new air-strikes on targets in the southern Gaza city. The strikes came as Palestinians in Gaza were celebrating Hamas' announcement, and Israeli protestors in several cities joined families of the hostages to demand that Israel accept the deal.

The Hamas announcement followed Israel's evacuation orders for parts of Rafah.

KAN, Israel's public broadcaster, reported that the proposal was made by the mediators without Israeli involvement. An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, later toldReuters that Hamas had accepted a "softened" version with "far-reaching" consequences that Israel could not accept. "This would appear to be a ruse intended to make Israel look like the side refusing a deal," the Israeli official said.

Reuters reported some of the details of the proposal, which would have three phases, based on statements from Hamas officials and "an official briefed on the talks." The first phase would include a 42-day ceasefire, the release of 33 Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, a partial withdrawal of Israeli forces in Gaza, and the return of Palestinians to northern Gaza. The second phase would include another 42-day ceasefire, an agreement to restore "sustainable calm," the complete withdrawal of Israeli troops in Gaza, and the release of captive Israeli soldiers and reservists in exchange for the release of more Palestinian prisoners. The third phase would include the exchange of bodies, the implementation of a reconstruction plan for Gaza, and the end of the blockade on the Strip.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told state media that he welcomed the deal, and urged the international community to pressure Israel to accept it. Jordan's king warned that an Israeli attack on Rafah could lead to a "new massacre," while the UN Secretary-General urgedIsrael and Hamas to "go the extra mile needed to make an agreement."

US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that the White House, which has expressed opposition to Israel invading Rafah, is studying the deal with its allies, and that the US is working to secure a ceasefire agreement. Hamas deputy official Khalil al-Hayya told Al Jazeera that mediators told them Washington is committed to implementing the agreement.

Hamas had sent a delegation to Cairo to discuss a ceasefire and hostage release proposal, and said May 5 that there was not an agreement. Earlier on May 6, a Hamas official told an Israeli reporter that negotiations were likely to be suspended and talks had seemed to break down, with the two parties accusing the other of sabotaging a deal. Israel started preparing for ground operations in Rafah, with an evacuation announcement and overnight air-strikes.

From Jurist, May 6. Used with permission.

Note: Amid reports on the ceasefire deal, Hamas fired rockets at Israeli forces near the main entry point for aid into the Gaza Strip. The strike on the Kerem Shalom crossing killed three Israeli soldiers, and Israel responded by closing the gateway. (PBS NewsHour)