WAs Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirms plans for a ground offensive in Rafah in the Gaza Strip, the USA wants to make the ceasefire negotiations a success with a new compromise proposal, according to media reports. As the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday (local time), citing Arab mediators, the proposal presented by CIA Director William Burns in Cairo on Sunday evening provides for the Islamist Hamas to kill 40 of the more than 100 in the country as part of a six-week ceasefire hostages held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for 900 Palestinian prisoners – including 100 who were sentenced to life in prison for murdering Israelis. Israel should in turn allow up to 150,000 displaced Palestinians to return to the north of the coastal area.

Meanwhile, right-wing conservative Prime Minister Netanyahu said a date had been set for an offensive against the refugee-filled city of Rafah in the south of the Gaza Strip. He did not give any further details. The USA, as its most important ally, and Germany have repeatedly warned Israel against a large-scale offensive in Rafah.

US awaits response from Hamas

The news portal Axios also reported on Burns' new proposal, which Israeli officials say builds on conditions discussed in previous negotiations. The new proposal requires compromises from both parties to the conflict. Israel's security cabinet is expected to meet this Tuesday to discuss the proposal, according to Axios.

The Hamas delegation, in turn, left Cairo on Sunday evening for consultations with its leadership. We are now waiting for the response from Hamas leader in Gaza, Jihia al-Sinwar, said John Kirby, communications director for the US government's National Security Council. This could take a few days. “If you ask me whether I am more optimistic today than I was a few days ago, I would say yes,” the news portal quoted a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Qatar as saying. The Gulf Emirate's political leadership is said to have particularly close ties to Hamas.

Under Burns' proposal, Hamas would have to make concessions on the number and identity of hostages it would release, it said. A central point concerns Israel's demand that the Islamist organization release 40 of the 100 presumably still alive hostages, even if some of them do not meet the original criteria for release on humanitarian grounds, Axios reported. The first phase of an agreement would therefore provide for the release of women, soldiers, men over 50 years of age and men under 50 years of age with serious health problems.

In recent negotiations, Hamas stated that it did not have 40 living hostages from these categories. Senior Israeli officials believed this to be true, it said. Israel has therefore suggested closing the gap with soldiers or men under the age of 50 who are held hostage. In return, Israel would then release a higher number of Palestinian prisoners for each of these hostages, officials were quoted as saying.

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