- An official tells Reuters that the supposed agreement stipulates a three-day truce
- Official says Hamas will release about 50 hostages from Gaza
- Israel will release some Palestinian women and children from prisons
- Qatar has a direct line of communication with both Israel and Hamas
DOHA/CAIRO (Reuters) – Qatari mediators sought on Wednesday to negotiate an agreement between Hamas and Israel that would include the release of about 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, an official familiar with the negotiations said. He told Reuters.
The deal under discussion, which was coordinated with the United States, would also see Israel release some Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons and increase the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza, the official said.
This will be the largest release of hostages held by Hamas since the Palestinian movement invaded the Gaza border, attacked parts of Israel and took hostages in the Strip.
The official said that Hamas agreed to the broad outlines of this agreement, but Israel did not do so and is still negotiating the details.
It is not known how many Palestinian women and children Israel will release from its prisons as part of the agreement under discussion.
The scope of the Qatar-led negotiations has changed dramatically in recent weeks, but the fact that the talks now focus on the release of 50 civilian prisoners in exchange for a three-day truce and that Hamas has agreed to the broad outlines of the agreement has not been previously reported.
The wealthy state of Qatar, which has ambitious foreign policy goals, has a direct line of communication with Hamas and Israel. It previously helped broker a truce between the two sides.
Such a deal would require Hamas to hand over a complete list of the names of the remaining civilian hostages being held in Gaza.
The official said a more comprehensive release of all hostages is not currently under discussion.
There was no immediate response from Israeli officials, who had previously refused to provide detailed comment on the hostage negotiations, citing reluctance to undermine diplomatic efforts or fuel reports of what they see as “psychological warfare” waged by Palestinian militants.
When Taher al-Nono, media advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, was asked about the negotiations, he did not directly confirm the deal under discussion.
“Netanyahu is stalling and undermining any progress. He is exploiting the prisoner issue to continue the aggression. Netanyahu is not serious about reaching an agreement,” Nonoo told Reuters.
The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.
Qatar, where Hamas runs a political office, is leading mediation between the armed movement and Israeli officials to release more than 240 hostages. They were kidnapped by Hamas activists when they invaded Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed during the attack.
Israel then launched sustained bombardments on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and late last month began an armored invasion of the enclave, in which more than 11,000 people were killed, about 40% of them children, and more were buried under rubble, according to Palestinian officials.
Israeli Minister Benny Gantz, who is in the war cabinet, said in a press conference on Wednesday: “Even if we are asked to stop fighting in order to return our hostages, there will be no stopping the fighting and the war until we achieve our goal.” Objectives.”
In response to a question about what is hindering the hostage deal, Gantz refused to provide any details.
Sources in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East said talks had previously focused on Hamas releasing up to 15 hostages and halting fighting in Gaza for up to three days.
There was no immediate comment from the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Hamas political office in Doha.
Two Egyptian security sources said that so far only an agreement has been reached on a limited truce in specific areas in Gaza. They said Israel had shown reluctance to commit to any broader agreement, but appeared to have come close to doing so by Tuesday.
The Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, said on Monday that it had informed Qatari negotiators of its readiness to release up to 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day truce.
“We are working tirelessly to release the hostages, including using increased pressure since the ground incursion began,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
Any deal faces many obstacles.
A Western diplomat in the region said that it is unclear whether Hamas is currently capable of preparing an accurate list of the hostages it is holding, given that the war has caused it problems in communications and organization in Gaza.
Another source in the region familiar with the negotiations said that collecting the hostages for any simultaneous release, which is what Israel wants, would be logistically difficult without a ceasefire.
The same source said there was also uncertainty over whether Hamas’ military and political leadership agreed, although this was later resolved, as well as concerns that Israeli military pressure was making an agreement more difficult.
(Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha, Maya Gebaili in Beirut, Aidan Lewis and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza – Preparing by Mohamed for the Arab Bulletin – Editing by Mohamed Al-Yamani) (Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Mayan Lobel in Jerusalem – Preparing by Mohamed for the Arab Bulletin) Writing by Andrew Mills and Angus McDowell. Edited by Michael Georgi and Gareth Jones
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