May 8, 2024 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1763

The Profound Differences Between The Egyptian Proposal For An Israel-Hamas Agreement And The Proposal Submitted By Hamas

May 8, 2024 | By Y. Yehoshua, H. Varulkar, and S. Schneidmann*
Egypt, Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 1763


On May 6, 2024, Hamas announced that it had accepted the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, on the backdrop of the negotiations for the release of the 132 Israeli hostages held in Gaza. However, an examination of the version of the agreement accepted by Hamas reveals that the movement made fundamental changes to the agreement's goals and to its content, modifying the conditions of the deal in favor of Hamas and against Israel.

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, which is affiliated with Hizbullah which has been fighting alongside Hamas against Israel, published on May 1 the full text of the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, and on May 6 it published the text of the agreement that Hamas claimed to have accepted. A comparison of the two texts exposes the fundamental changes made by Hamas.

In Hamas's version of the text, Israel must in the first phase release all the Palestinian prisoners that Hamas views as key figures, while Hamas will hand over only 33 Israeli hostages – which it terms "detainees" –  regardless of whether they are dead or alive. This is meant to limit Israel's negotiating power in future phases of the deal and allows Hamas to hold on to its own trump cards.

In Hamas' version of the text, the movement is not required to provide full and clear details about the identity or status of any of the Israeli hostages, and can release fewer living hostages than specified in the original proposal while receiving in exchange a greater number of Palestinian prisoners (including prisoners who are serving prolonged sentences). It can also determine the identity of the Palestinian prisoners to be released, while Israel is not entitled to veto them.

In addition, the Hamas text dictates an end to the war, as Hamas has demanded since the beginning of the negotiations. It also designates Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the reconstruction of the Strip as goals of the agreement, alongside the goals outlined in the Egyptian proposal, namely the release of Israeli civilians and soldiers captured "at any period of time" and the attainment of  "sustainable calm." Furthermore, the Hamas text demands full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip before the second phase of the prisoner exchange, which will include Israeli men – both civilians and soldiers – who are still alive.

Furthermore, the text of the agreement to which Hamas agreed omitted all limitations and qualifications that were in the Egyptian proposal aimed at preventing Hamas from resurging militarily. Hamas deleted that agreement's ban on rebuilding its military infrastructure along with the ban on bringing military equipment into the Gaza Strip. Likewise, in its text, Hamas seeks unlimited freedom of movement and a return to homes that is not limited to civilians only as was stated in the Egyptian text.

Moreover, the Hamas text omitted all the restrictions and reservations included in the Egyptian proposal that were meant to prevent Hamas from rebuilding its military capabilities. It removed language specifying that only "unarmed civilians" would be allowed to return to their homes in Gaza, as well as language restricting freedom of movement for armed operatives and banning Hamas from rebuilding its military infrastructure or bringing military equipment into the Gaza Strip.

In its version of the text, Hamas aims to increase the involvement of the UN, and particularly of UNRWA, in the implementation of the agreement. It lists the UN as a guarantor of the agreement alongside Egypt, Qatar, and the U.S., and specifically names UNRWA – which is in fact the only agency explicitly mentioned in the text – as one of the organizations that will distribute aid "in all areas of the Gaza Strip […] throughout all stages of the agreement." This condition comes on the backdrop of efforts to minimize UNRWA operations due to the accusations that UNRWA employees have been involved in terrorist activities.

Furthermore, Hamas added a demand for compensation for all individuals harmed by the war, which did not exist in the Egyptian proposal.

This report reviews the fundamental differences between the Egyptian ceasefire proposal and the modified text that Hamas announced it has accepted.

Hamas Will Release "Living [Hostages] Or Dead Bodies" In Exchange For A Greater Number Of Palestinian Prisoners

As mentioned, contrary to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, which requires Hamas to release 33 living Israeli hostages in the first phase of the agreement, the Hamas version of the text states that the movement will release 33 hostages, "living [ones] or dead bodies."

The Egyptian text required Hamas to release "at least 33 male or female detainees, including all the Israeli detainees who are alive from among the women (civilians and soldiers), the children (under the age of 19), the elderly (over the age of 50), the ill and the wounded." By contrast, the fourth clause of the deal proposed by Hamas omits the words "all" and "at least," and adds in parentheses the words "living [hostages] or dead bodies" when referring to the 33 Israeli "detainees." The Hamas text also specifically defines as "children" only individuals under 19 "who are not soldiers," and promised to release only "ill and wounded civilians."

The number of Palestinian prisoners Israel is required to release in exchange for its hostages is also larger in the Hamas text, compared to the Egyptian proposal. The Egyptian deal stated that in exchange for every child or civilian woman released by Hamas, Israel would release "20 children and women," but the fourth clause of the Hamas version instead states that Israel must release 30 such prisoners. Both Egypt's and Hamas's versions state that the prisoners will be released based on lists provided by Hamas and based on the amount of time the prisoners have served.

Similarly, Hamas increased the number of Palestinians released in exchange for every "living Israeli detainees among the elderly detainees (over the age of 50), the ill and the wounded civilians" from 20 to 30, in accordance with a list provided by Hamas and on the basis of time served in prison. The word "civilians" was also added by Hamas, in order to remove from this category the ill and wounded men under 50 (all of whom Hamas defines as soldiers).

Israel Will Release More High-Profile Prisoners, Will Have No Veto Privileges, And Will Even Release Them Into The West Bank

Another way in which Hamas changed the proposal to Israel's detriment is evident in the section about releasing Israeli female soldiers. The Egyptian proposal states that in exchange for every female soldier released by Hamas, Israel will release "20 [Palestinian prisoners serving] life terms and 20 [prisoners] who have no longer than 10 years left on their sentence, based on lists provided by Hamas, with Israel [retaining] veto privileges (for no more than 200 names)." By contrast, the Hamas text increased the number of Palestinian prisoners released for each female Israeli soldier and removed the reference to Israel's veto privileges. The end of the fourth clause of the Hamas text states that Israel will release "50 prisoners for every Israeli female soldier released (30 [serving] life terms and 20 [serving] varying sentences), based on lists provided by Hamas." That is, Hamas has increased the number of prisoners to be released, and specifically the number of high-profile prisoners serving lengthy terms. It has also completely removed the sentence granting Israel veto privileges.

Hamas removed yet another important sentence from the Egyptian proposal, which stated that  "every prisoner serving a life sentence whose release will be decided upon will be released either abroad or to the Gaza Strip" – i.e., not to the West Bank. The omission of this sentence enables Hamas to demand the release of high-profile prisoners into the West Bank, thereby strengthening its terrorist infrastructure there.

Prisoner Exchange Timeline Modified To Israel's Detriment

According to the original Egyptian proposal, Hamas was to release "three Israeli detainees on the first day of the agreement, and then three more detainees every three days, starting with all the women (civilians and female soldiers), until the 33rd day." By contrast, the fifth clause of the Hamas version changed this sentence to read: "Hamas will release three Israeli detainees on the agreement's third day, and subsequently three more detainees every seven days, starting with women (civilians and female soldiers) whenever possible." That is, the Hamas text significantly extends the prisoner exchange period, thus making it easier for the movement to evade fully implementing the deal.

Later in the fifth clause of the Hamas text, another sentence appears which was not present in the Egyptian proposal. It reads: "In the sixth week, Hamas shall release all remaining civilian detainees included in this phase," i.e., from the group of 33 hostages.

The text Hamas added to the clause also grants it the exclusive right to determine the identity of the prisoners released by Israel. Where the Egyptian proposal stated that Israel will release "an appropriate and agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners from the Israeli prisons, in accordance with agreed-upon lists," the Hamas text states: "Israel [will release] the agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons according to the lists that Hamas will submit." In other words, according to the Hamas proposal, while Israel has no say about the identity of the hostages released by Hamas, Hamas can fully dictate the identities of the prisoners released by Israel.

Hamas Demands Release Of Additional High-Profile Prisoners, Including Those Who Fought In Gaza, In Exchange For Israeli Hostages' Bodies, Not Only Living Hostages

The agreement's lowered obligations for Hamas and increased obligations for Israel were also reflected in an additional proposal by Hamas stressing that "in the event" that no living hostages remain in the categories of those to be released in the first phase, it will release the bodies of dead hostages instead.

The Egyptian proposal stated: "By Day 7 [of the implementation of the agreement] at the latest, Hamas will provide a list of all the rest of the detainees in the abovementioned groups (beyond the [afore]mentioned 33), so that they will be released beginning on Day 34, along with an extension of the cessation of military activity for a number of days in accordance with the number of remaining detainees (an additional day for each additional detainee released)." In exchange, "the Israeli side will release an appropriate and agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners from the Israeli prisons, in accordance with agreed-upon lists."

However, the Hamas proposal says something completely different, in Section 5: "By Day 7 [of the implementation of the agreement) (to the extent possible), Hamas will provide information on the number of Israeli detainees to be released in this [first] phase. On Day 22, the Israeli side will release all prisoners from the Shalit exchange deal who were rearrested. In the event that the number of living Israeli detainees slated for release is less than 33, this number will be made up with dead bodies of hostages from those categories for this phase. In exchange, Israel will release all women and children (under age 19) arrested in the Gaza Strip since October 7, 2023, and this will take place in Week 5 of this phase."

In other words, Hamas is demanding the right to keep mum about which of the hostages are still alive, and is not obligated to release 33 live hostages in the first phase. In exchange for this, it is demanding the release of additional high-profile prisoners along with the release of all prisoners freed in the Shalit deal who have since been rearrested – a demand that never appeared in the Egyptian proposal – as well as terrorists arrested during the current war in Gaza.

In addition, it should be noted that Hamas has made fundamental changes also to the clause covering the exchange of bodies and human remains in the third phase of the deal. While the Egyptian proposal mentioned an exchange of "all the bodies and remains of the deceased held by both sides," the Hamas text omits the word "all", enabling Hamas to hold on to the bodies and remains of Israelis.

Guarantees Of No Rearrests Of Released Terrorists And Demands For Improved Conditions For Prisoners In Israeli Prisons

The text of the new agreement presented by Hamas includes legal demands for Israel in all things related to the prisoners to be released, as well as for the prisoners that will remain in Israeli incarceration. Under the Egyptian proposal, Israel was meant to commit only to "not rearrest the released Palestinian prisoners on the same charges on which they were previously arrested." In contrast, Section 6 of the text to which Hamas agreed states: "All the demanded legal steps guaranteeing that the released Palestinian prisoners will not be rearrested on the same charges on which they were previously arrested must be completed." Likewise, an added sentence (Section 8) states: "All measures and all sanctions leveled against the prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons and detention facilities since October 7, 2023 will be cancelled, and their conditions will be improved, including for those arrested after this date."

Hamas' Demands On The Military Level: Accelerating Israel's Withdrawal From The Gaza Strip While Reducing The Number Of Israeli Hostages Released In Return; Granting Militants Freedom Of Movement;  No Ban On Rebuilding Military Infrastructure

Also prominent in the changes introduced by Hamas are its efforts to accelerate Israel's withdrawal from Gaza while at the same time reducing the number of hostages Hamas will release in return. For example, according to the Egyptian proposal, the first phase of the agreement will involve a temporary cessation of military action by both sides, and a withdrawal of the Israeli forces eastward, away from the densely populated areas "to an area near the Israeli border" in all parts of the Strip "except for the Gaza Valley." However, Hamas amended this passage to state that the Israeli forces will withdraw "to an area along the Israeli border in all parts of the Strip including the Gaza Valley," and clarified that this means the Netzarim axis and Kuwait roundabout.

Furthermore, this paragraph in the original proposal submitted to Hamas states that the Israeli withdrawal from Al-Rashid Street (in the West of the Strip, on the coast) eastward to Salah Al-Din Street (the road bisecting the Strip from north to south) will occur on the seventh day of the agreement, after the release of all the women, whereas Hamas' altered version  of this passage states that this withdrawal will occur already on the third day, after the release of only three hostages. Unlike the Egyptian proposal, it also stipulates that the Israeli withdrawal to Salah Al-Din Street must be "complete" and must include "the complete dismantlement of [Israel's] military positions throughout this area."

The Egyptian proposal states that the next step of the Israeli forces' withdrawal, from the center of the Gaza Strip (especially from the Netzarim axis and the Kuwait roundabout), east of Salah Al-Din Road, to an area near the border will occur on the 22nd day, after the release of two thirds of the 33 hostages to be released in the first phase of the deal, whereas Hamas' version states that this withdrawal will take place after the release of only half of the living hostages slated for release during the first phase. Here too Hamas added a demand that that Israel's withdrawal include the complete dismantlement of its military positions throughout the area from which it withdraws, and in the passage that speaks of "the continued return of the displaced civilians to their places of residence in the north of the Gaza Strip," it again deleted the word "civilians."

Hamas' proposal seeks to make it difficult for Israel to gather intelligence on the regrouping of Hamas' military wing during the temporary cessation of military operations. The Egyptian proposal called for the suspension of Israeli reconnaissance flights over Gaza Strip for eight hours a day, and for 10 hours on the days of prisoner exchange. In Hamas' proposal, these time-periods have been extended to 10 hours and 12 hours, respectively.

Hamas' version also seeks to guarantee the presence of the movement's militants among the displaced persons allowed to return to their homes. In the Egyptian proposal, the section on the first phase of the agreement states that the residents permitted to return will be "unarmed civilians." Hamas deleted this phrase, and instead added in parentheses that the displaced will begin to return "without carrying weapons during their return" – which implies that militants will later be able to rearm. Moreover, while the original proposal spoke of "freedom of movement for civilian residents in all areas of the Strip," Hamas' version omits the word "civilian," thus demanding freedom of movement for its military operatives as well.

Furthermore, according to Hamas' proposal, the second phase of the deal is conditional upon a full withdrawal of the Israeli forces from  the Gaza Strip. It states that this phase will begin with "announcing the return of sustainable calm (cessation of military and hostile action)" before commencing the second round of prisoner exchange. It also speaks of releasing "all the male Israeli [hostages] still living (civilians and soldiers) in exchange for an agreed-upon number of [Palestinian] prisoners and detainees… and the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip." The word "complete" was not part of the original proposal and was added by Hamas.

In should be stressed that in the section dealing with the agreement's third phase, Hamas deleted from the Egyptian version a passage aimed at preventing it from rebuilding its military infrastructures and facilities and regaining its military strength. The deleted sentence stated that "the Palestinian side will refrain from rebuilding the military infrastructures and facilities and from importing any military gear, raw material or other components used for military purposes."

Hamas introduced changes that would allow its military operatives to exit the strip through the Rafah crossing to receive medical treatment from the first day of the first phase of the deal, whereas the original proposal allows this only "from the 14th day" of the deal." Hamas's version also stipulates that the number of militants allowed to leave for medical treatment will be "no less than 50," and adds that "restrictions on movement [through the Rafah crossing] will be lifted and the movement of goods and commerce will [also] resume without restrictions."


Hamas Makes The Reconstruction Of The Gaza Strip One Of The Objectives of The Agreement, Demands That Arrangements For This Will Commence In The First Phase, Before The Release Of All The Hostages, And Also Demands Compensation For All Those Affected By The War

The changes introduced by Hamas also concern the involvement of international organizations in the implementation of the agreement, in the provision of humanitarian aid and in the rebuilding of the Strip. Hamas added a reference to the UN as one of the guarantors of the agreement, alongside Egypt, Qatar and the U.S., as well as an explicit reference to UNRWA as one of the elements that will be responsible for aid. This is as a countermeasure to the attempts to minimize UNRWA's role, due to the accusations that its members aided Hamas and even participated in the October 7 terror attack. The tenth clause of the section dealing with the first phase of the deal states that " The U.N. and its agencies, including UNRWA, and other international organizations will work to provide humanitarian aid throughout the Gaza Strip and will continue to do so in all phases of the agreement."

While the Egyptian proposal stated that, in the agreement's first phase,  the entry of humanitarian aid, relief materials and fuel will be facilitated – "500 trucks, including 50 fuel trucks, 250 of which will be for the north [of the Strip],"  the third clause of Hamas' proposal states that "from the first day600 trucks per day, of which 50 are fuel trucks, including 300 for the north" will enter the Strip.

In the beginning of the document, Hamas inserted a passage designating the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip as one of the goals of the agreement. While the original proposal stated that the aim of the framework agreement, in addition to the exchange of prisoners, is to attain "sustainable calm, including the implementation of what is needed to achieve a ceasefire," Hamas' version states that the aim is to attain "a return to sustainable calm, so that a permanent ceasefire will be achieved, as well as the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and reconstruction."

As for the timeline for the reconstruction, Hamas' version stipulates that plans and preparations for it will begin already in the first phrase of the agreement, rather than in the second phase, as per the Egyptian proposal. In Hamas' version, the 14th clause of the section on the first phase speaks of "initiating the necessary arrangements and plans for the comprehensive reconstruction of homes, civilian facilities and civilian infrastructure destroyed in the war." In this section Hamas also added a demand to "compensate those affected, under the supervision of several countries and organizations, including Egypt, Qatar, and the U.N.," but not the U.S., although the latter is designated as one of the guarantors of the agreement.

In the section on the third phase of the agreement, Hamas' version states that the reconstruction plan will be completed within 3-5 years, while the Egyptian version spoke of five years. In this section Hamas' version again mentions the rebuilding of homes, civilian facilities, and infrastructure, whereas the Egyptian proposal spoke of "civilian infrastructure." Here too Hamas added a sentence demanding "the compensation of all those affected, under the supervision of several countries and organizations, including Egypt, Qatar, and the United Nations," without mentioning the U.S.


* Y. Yehoshua is MEMRI Vice President for Research at MEMRI; H. Varulkar is Director of Research at MEMRI; S. Schneidmann is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.

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