Israel, Hamas said moving toward deal to free hostages for monthlong pause in fighting

Demonstrators hold up signs during a rally to demand the release of hostages held by the Hamas terror group, near the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem on January 22, 2024. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)
Published January 23, 2024

Sources tell Reuters gaps have narrowed, but terror group refusing to move forward until permanent ceasefire is agreed on, while Israel won’t discuss ending war if Hamas still intact

Israel and Hamas broadly agree in principle that an exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners could take place during a monthlong ceasefire, but the framework plan is being held up by the two sides’ differences over how to bring a permanent end to the Gaza war, three sources told Reuters.

Intense mediation efforts led by Qatar, Washington and Egypt in recent weeks have focused on a phased approach to release different categories of Israeli hostages — starting with civilians and ending with soldiers — in return for a break in hostilities, the release of Palestinian prisoners and more aid to Gaza.

Israel is also said to have made an offer this week for a two-month ceasefire during which Hamas would release the hostages in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners in stages. Under the proposal, Yahya Sinwar and other top Hamas leaders in Gaza would be allowed to relocate to other countries.

An Egyptian official said earlier Tuesday that Hamas rejected the proposal.

The latest round of international shuttle diplomacy started on December 28 and has narrowed disagreements about the length of an initial ceasefire to around 30 days, after Hamas had first proposed a pause of several months, said one of the sources, an official briefed on the negotiations.



RELATED: Hamas said to reject Israeli offer of two-month pause in war for release of hostages

Egyptian officials tells AP the terror group’s leaders won’t accept exile from the Strip and want the IDF to withdraw completely; Israeli officials do not confirm the report

Published January 23, 2024

Hamas has rejected Israel’s proposal for a two-month ceasefire during which the terror group would release Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners, said a senior Egyptian official on Tuesday, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The official said that Hamas leaders have also refused to leave Gaza and are demanding that Israel fully withdraw from the territory and allow Palestinians to return to their homes.

Israel did not confirm the report. Channel 12 news quoted unnamed Israeli officials saying on Tuesday evening that Israel has not been informed of Hamas rejecting the offer.

Under Israel’s proposal, Yahya Sinwar and other top Hamas leaders in Gaza would be allowed to relocate to other countries.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al Ansari struck an optimistic tone about mediation efforts during a press briefing Tuesday, saying, “We are engaging in serious discussions with both sides. We have presented ideas to both sides. We are getting a constant stream of replies from both sides and that in its own right is a cause for optimism.”



RELATED: Scoop: Israel proposes 2-month fighting pause in Gaza for release of all hostages

Protestors in Jerusalem hold up portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza at a rally on Jan. 22, 2024 to demand their release. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images
Published January 22, 2024

Israel has given Hamas a proposal through Qatari and Egyptian mediators that includes up to two months of a pause in the fighting as part of a multi-phase deal that would include the release of all remaining hostages held in Gaza, two Israeli officials said.

Why it matters: While the proposal doesn’t include an agreement to end the fighting, it is the longest period of ceasefire that Israel has offered Hamas since the start of the war.

Driving the news: More than 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza. Israeli officials say several dozen hostages either died on Oct. 7 or in the weeks since then.

President Biden’s adviser Brett McGurk traveled to Egypt on Sunday and will continue to Qatar afterward for talks aimed at making progress in the negotiations to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Qatari and Egyptian mediators have been trying for weeks to bridge the gaps between the parties in order to make progress towards a deal.

U.S. officials told Axios that reaching such an agreement might be the only path that could lead to a ceasefire in Gaza.

Behind the scenes: Two Israeli officials said the Israeli war cabinet approved 10 days ago the parameters of a new proposal for a hostage deal, which are different from past aspects of deals rejected by Hamas and more forward-leaning than previous Israeli proposals.

Israeli officials said they are waiting for a response from Hamas but stressed they are cautiously optimistic about the ability to make progress in the coming days.

According to the proposal, the deal would include the release of all remaining hostages who are alive and the return of the bodies of dead hostages in several phases. The first phase would see the release of women, men over the age of 60 years old and hostages who are in critical medical condition, the officials said.

The next phases would include the release of female soldiers, men under the age of 60 years old who are not soldiers, Israeli male soldiers and the bodies of hostages.

Details: The officials said Israel proposed the overall period of pause for the completion of the release of all hostages in the different phases could reach up to two months.

Under the proposed deal, Israel and Hamas would agree in advance on how many Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli hostage in each category and then separate negotiations on the names of these prisoners would take place, the officials said.

The Israeli officials said the proposal includes Israel redeploying Israeli Defense Forces so that some would be moved out of main population centers in the enclave and allowing a gradual return of Palestinian civilians to Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip as the deal is being implemented.

The Israeli officials said the proposal makes clear Israel will not agree to end the war and will not agree to release all of the estimated 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.





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