Hamas clears the way for a possible cease-fire after dropping key demand, officials say

Hamas clears the way for a possible cease-fire after dropping key demand, officials say

Hamas has given initial approval for a US-backed cease-fire deal in Gaza, a Hamas and an Egyptian official said on Saturday.

Hamas reportedly dropped a key demand that Israel gives an up-front commitment for a complete end to the war.

The apparent compromise could help deliver the first pause in fighting since last November and set the stage for further talks on ending a devastating nine-month war that has taken the lives of tens of thousands.

The two officials – who spoke on condition of anonymity – said the phased deal presented by Washington included a “full and complete” six-week cease-fire.

It allegedly would see the release of hostages, including women, the elderly and the wounded, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

During the 42 days, Israeli forces would also withdraw from densely populated parts of Gaza and allow the return of displaced people to their homes, the pair said.

In that time frame, mediators from both side would negotiate the terms of the cease-fire's second phase, which would see the release of the remaining male hostages – both civilians and soldiers.

In return, Israel would free additional Palestinian prisoners.

The third phase would see the return of any hostages, the bodies of dead captives, and the start of a year-long reconstruction project.

The two officials said Hamas still wants written guarantees from mediators that Israel will continue to negotiate a permanent cease-fire deal once the first phase goes into effect.

Months of cease-fire talks have stumbled over Hamas’ key demand that any deal include a complete end to the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to pause the fighting, but not end it until Israel reaches its goal of destroying Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and returning all hostages held.