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Israel rejects Hamas demands for complete army withdrawal from Gaza

Xinhua | Updated: 2024-04-14 03:31

People hold Israeli flags as they attend a protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government and call for the release of hostages in Tel Aviv, Israel, on April 13. [Photo/Agencies]

GAZA/JERUSALEM -- The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) announced Saturday it has responded to mediators in Egypt and Qatar over the proposed ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and reaffirmed its demands.

The movement said in a press statement that it has "submitted its response to the Egyptian and Qatari mediators on the proposal it received last Monday," without giving further details.

Hamas meanwhile reiterated its demands for a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes, the facilitation of relief supplies and aid into Gaza, and the start of reconstruction efforts in the coastal enclave.

The statement emphasized the movement's readiness to conclude a "serious and genuine" prisoner-hostage exchange deal with Israel that the faction had received on April 8.

Later, the Israeli Prime Minister's office said Israel rejected the "unfounded demands" of Hamas for an end to the Gaza war and a complete withdrawal of its troops from the enclave.

In an immediate response to Hamas' remarks, the office noted that the Israeli cabinet and the security forces are united in their opposition to these demands.

The office said political instruction given to negotiations focuses on "achieving the release of our hostages and maintaining Israel's security."

It argued that the only obstacle to obtaining the release of the Israeli hostages is Hamas and "not any factor on the Israeli side," and that Hamas "has refused any deal and any compromise proposal."

On Monday, Cairo hosted a new round of indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas, in a new attempt to reach agreements leading to a ceasefire and a prisoner exchange.

Palestinian sources told Xinhua that the mediators presented a new proposal in the Cairo talk including a three-stage ceasefire, without specifying a complete withdrawal of Israel from the Gaza Strip.

The first stage enables the return of "non-armed" displaced civilians to the northern Gaza Strip, without specifying their numbers, the opening of the Rashid and Salah al-Din streets with Israel's forces stationed 500 meters away.

It also includes entering 500 aid trucks daily into all areas of Gaza and releasing 900 Palestinian prisoners, including 100 with life sentences.

The proposed second stage initiates the release of all Israeli prisoners and the conclusion of negotiations for a sustainable calm.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators, in addition to the United States, seek to reach a deal for a prisoner exchange and a second truce between Israel and Hamas, following the first one that lasted a week until the beginning of last December.

Israel estimates the presence of about 134 Israelis held hostage in Gaza, while Hamas announced the killing of 70 of them in Israeli random raids.

Israel holds more than 9,000 Palestinian prisoners in its jails, whose conditions have deteriorated since it began its war on Gaza, and some of them have died, according to Palestinian organizations concerned with prisoners.

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