- The supposed agreement envisages a three-day ceasefire, the official told Reuters
- Hamas would release about 50 hostages from Gaza, official says
- Israel would free some Palestinian women, children from prison
- Qatar has direct communication with both Israel and Hamas
DOHA/CAIRO, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Qatari mediators sought to negotiate a deal between Hamas and Israel on Wednesday that included the release of about 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, an official briefed said about the negotiations. Reuters.
The deal, which is under discussion and coordinated with the United States, will 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.
It will mark the biggest release of hostages held by Hamas since the Palestinian militant group stormed across the Gaza border, attacking parts of Israel and taking hostages into the enclave.
Hamas has accepted the general outlines of that deal, but Israel — which has since bombed and sent forces into Gaza — has not and is still negotiating the details, the official said.
It is not known how many Palestinian women and children Israel would release from its prisons as part of the deal being discussed.
The scope of the Qatar-led talks have changed significantly in recent weeks, but the fact that the talks now focus on the release of 50 civilian prisoners in exchange for a three-day ceasefire and that Hamas has agreed to the outline agreement, has not been reported before.
The wealthy Gulf state of Qatar, which has ambitious foreign policy goals, has a direct line of communication with Hamas and Israel. It has previously helped mediate ceasefires between the two.
Such a deal would require Hamas to hand over a complete list of remaining live civilian hostages held in Gaza.
A more comprehensive release of all hostages is not currently under discussion, the official said.
There was no immediate reaction from Israeli officials, who have previously declined to comment in detail on the hostage negotiations, citing a reluctance to undermine diplomacy or inflame reports of what they considered “psychological warfare” by Palestinian militants.
When Reuters asked about the talks on Wednesday, Ezzat El Rashq, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, did not directly confirm the deal under discussion.
Israel “refuses and is still delaying the release of 50 captive women and children and a genuine humanitarian ceasefire in exchange for the release of a number of women and children from our people in the occupation prisons and getting emergency aid and humanitarian aid to all areas of Gaza- the streak,” he said.
Qatar’s foreign ministry declined to comment.
Qatar, where Hamas operates a political office, has spearheaded mediation between the Islamist militant group and Israeli officials for the release of more than 240 hostages. They were taken by militants when they stormed into Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the vandalism.
Israel then launched a relentless bombardment of Hamas-ruled Gaza and late last month began an armored invasion of the enclave, where more than 11,000 people have been killed, about 40% of them children with more buried under the rubble, according to Palestinian officials .
Israeli war minister Benny Gantz, who sits in the war cabinet, told a news conference on Wednesday: “Even if we are forced to pause the fighting to return our hostages, there will be no stopping the fighting and the war until we reach our Goal. .”
When asked to elaborate on what is holding up the hostage deal, Gantz declined to provide any details.
Earlier, talks had focused on Hamas releasing up to 15 hostages and a pause in Gaza fighting of up to three days, sources in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East said.
There was no immediate comment from Qatar’s foreign ministry and Hamas’ political office in Doha.
Two Egyptian security sources said so far only limited ceasefires had been agreed in specific areas of Gaza. They said Israel had shown reluctance to commit to a broader deal, but appeared to have moved closer to doing so on Tuesday.
Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said on Monday it had told Qatari negotiators it was willing to release up to 70 women and children in return for a five-day ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that “we have worked relentlessly for the release of the hostages, including using increased pressure since the start of the ground intervention”.
Any agreement faces many obstacles.
It is unclear whether Hamas is currently able to produce an accurate list of hostages it is holding, as the war has caused communication and organizational problems in Gaza, a Western diplomat in the region said.
Rounding up the hostages for any simultaneous release that Israel wants would be logistically difficult without a ceasefire, said another source in the region with knowledge of the talks.
There had also been uncertainty over whether the military and political leadership of Hamas agreed, although this was later resolved, and also concerns that Israeli military pressure made a deal more difficult, the same source said.
Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha, Maya Gebeily in Beirut, Aidan Lewis and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, Nidal Al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Mayaan Lubell in Jerusalem and Nayera Abdallah in Dubai; Writing by Andrew Mills and Angus McDowall; Editing by Michael Georgy, Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.