Hamas Official Says Permanent Ceasefire Is Not a Requirement for First Phase of Hostage Agreement
Israeli military land operations in Gaza. (Source: Israel Defense Forces)

JAKARTA - Hamas official Mohammad Nazzal said the Palestinian militant group did not demand that Israel agree to a ceasefire in the first stage of the hostage deal, but would do so at a later stage.

If they do represent the official position of Hamas (Nazzal is not seen as part of Hamas's inner circle of decisionmakers), the statements made to Saudi Arabia-based Asharq News would ostensibly signal a slight change.

Until now, Hamas has publicly stated that it will not agree to release the hostages unless there is a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.

"There has to be a permanent ceasefire sooner or later, but it doesn't have to happen in the first stage," Nazzal told Asharq News, quoted by The Times of Israel, February 29.

He further explained that the negotiating team had developed a framework in which the hostage agreement would be implemented in stages, with the second and third stages still not completed.

Nazzal indicated that at the end of the second or third phase of the agreement, Israel would have to agree to a permanent ceasefire and withdraw its troops from the Gaza Strip.

"They can start placing themselves outside large residential areas (in the first stage), but after that they have to leave the Gaza Strip," explained Nazzal.

If there were no disputes between the various phases of the agreement, there would likely be no practical implications of the stance described by Nazzal.

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