Israel and Hamas are far apart on a Gaza cease-fire and hostage deal. What are the sticking points?

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel and Hamas are examining proposed terms for a deal meant to bring about a cease-fire in the 4-month-old war in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of dozens of hostages still held there and the freeing of many Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

The two sides remain far apart on conditions. Mediators Qatar, Egypt and the U.S. are working to bridge the gaps. Here is a look at what each side wants:

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WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To remove Hamas from power in Gaza.

WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To maintain its control over the coastal enclave.

THE STICKING POINT: Israel has made destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities a central aim of its war against the militant group, which has ruled Gaza since it violently overran the territory in 2007.

After Hamas’ stunning attack on Oct. 7, when 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage, according to Israeli authorities, Israel has vowed to ensure the group does not pose a threat to its citizens again. It also says it wants to maintain open-ended security control over the territory after the war ends.

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WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To free hundreds of imprisoned senior Palestinian militants.

WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To keep those militants behind bars.

THE STICKING POINT: Thousands of Palestinian prisoners are held by Israel on minor or more serious charges — or in some cases no charges at all — related to the long-running conflict. Israel has agreed to lopsided trades for its captives in the past. One such deal in 2011 freed Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit from Hamas captivity in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners. Among those released was Yehya Sinwar, Hamas’ current leader in Gaza who is seen as a mastermind of the Oct. 7 attack that ignited the war.

Hamas wants hundreds of prisoners released and is expected to demand freedom for militants behind some of the deadliest attacks against Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the far-right governing partners he relies on to stay in power oppose a deal that includes such senior militants. They are also likely to reject a demand to free such a large number of prisoners.

The fate of prisoners is deeply emotional. While Israel considers them to be terrorists, Palestinians view them as heroes battling Israeli occupation. Virtually every Palestinian has a friend, relative or acquaintance who has been imprisoned.

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WHAT ISRAEL WANTS: To resume fighting after the release of hostages.

WHAT HAMAS WANTS: To get an up-front commitment that releasing all hostages will lead to the end of the war.

THE STICKING POINT: Netanyahu says Israel will continue fighting until “total victory” over Hamas. Israel wants to keep its forces on the ground in the Gaza Strip to continue dismantling the militant group’s vast underground tunnel network, neutralizing rocket launchers and killing militants in its aim to destroy Hamas’ military capabilities.

The war has already unleashed widespread destruction, leaving parts of Gaza uninhabitable, displacing four-fifths of the population and sparking a humanitarian catastrophe that has left a quarter of the population starving.

Hamas wants Israel to commit to a permanent cease-fire before it begins negotiating a phased release of all hostages.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas war at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

02/07/2024 19:14 -0500

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