Egyptian sources: Hamas, Islamic Jihad reject giving up power in return for permanent ceasefire

Egyptian sources: Hamas, Islamic Jihad reject giving up power in return for permanent ceasefire
Egyptian sources: Hamas, Islamic Jihad reject giving up power in return for permanent ceasefire

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Birds fly as buildings lie in ruins in Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 25, 2023. — Reuters pic

CAIRO, Dec 25 — Hamas and the allied Islamic Jihad have rejected an Egyptian proposal that they relinquish power in the Gaza Strip in return for a permanent ceasefire, two Egyptian security sources told Reuters today.

Both groups, which have been holding separate talks with Egyptian mediators in Cairo, rejected offering any concessions beyond the possible release of more hostages seized on October 7 when militants broke into southern Israel, killing 1,200 people.

Egypt proposed a “vision”, also backed by Qatari mediators, that would involve a ceasefire in exchange for the release of more hostages, and lead to a broader agreement involving a permanent ceasefire along with an overhaul of leadership in Gaza, which is currently led by Hamas.

Egypt proposed elections while offering assurances to Hamas that its members would not be chased or prosecuted, but the Islamist group rejected any concessions other than hostage releases, the sources said. More than 100 hostages are still believed to be held in Gaza.

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A Hamas official who visited Cairo recently declined to comment directly on specific offers of more temporary humanitarian truces and indicated the group’s rejection by repeating its official stance.

“Hamas seeks to end the Israeli aggression against our people, the massacres and genocide, and we discussed with our Egyptian brothers the ways to do that,” the official told Reuters.

“We also said that the aid for our people must keep going and must increase and it must reach all the population in the north and the south,” the official said.

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“After the aggression is stopped and the aid increased we are ready to discuss prisoner swaps,” he added.

Islamic jihad

Islamic Jihad, which also holds hostages in custody in Gaza, has echoed that stance.

An Islamic Jihad delegation led by its leader Ziad al-Nakhala is currently in Cairo to exchange ideas with Egyptian officials over prisoner swap offers and other issues, but an official said the group had set an end to Israel’s military offensive as a pre-condition for further negotiations.

Islamic Jihad insists, the official said, that any prisoner swap must be based on the principle of “all for all”, meaning the release of all hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and Islamic Jihad in return for freeing all Palestinians jailed in Israel.

Before the war, there were 5,250 Palestinians in Israeli jails, but the number has now grown to around 10,000 as Israel has arrested thousands more in the West Bank and Gaza since Oct 7, according to the Palestinian Prisoners Association.

Overnight into today, Gaza endured one of its deadliest nights in the 11-week-old war. Palestinian health officials said at least 70 people had been killed by an Israeli airstrike in the centre of the tiny, besieged Gaza Strip. — Reuters

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