- The trigger deal calls for a three-day ceasefire, the official told Reuters
- Hamas will release about 50 hostages from Gaza, officials say
- Israel will release some Palestinian women and children from prison
- Qatar has direct ties to both Israel and Hamas
DOHA/CAIRO, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Qatari mediators tried on Wednesday to broker talks between Hamas and Israel that could include the release of about 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, an official said. Reuters.
The deal, under discussion and coordinated with the United States, would 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 would mark the largest release of hostages held by Hamas since the Palestinian militant group stormed the Gaza border, storming parts of Israel and seizing hostages inside the enclave.
Hamas agreed to the general outlines of the deal, but Israel – which has since bombed and sent troops into Gaza – has yet to negotiate details, the official said.
It is not known how many Palestinian women and children Israel will release from prisons as part of the negotiated deal.
The scope of the Qatar-led talks has changed significantly in recent weeks, but talks now focus on the release of 50 civilian prisoners in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, and Hamas has agreed to its outline. The deal, which has not been reported before.
Qatar, a wealthy Gulf state with ambitious foreign policy goals, has direct ties to Hamas and Israel. It had earlier helped reconcile the two.
Such a deal would require Hamas to hand over a complete list of civilian hostages remaining in Gaza.
The official said the release of all the hostages was not under discussion at this time.
There was no immediate response from Israeli officials, who declined to comment in detail on the hostage negotiations, reluctant to undermine diplomacy or fuel statements they view as “psychological warfare” by Palestinian militants.
Ezzat El Rashq, a member of the Hamas politburo, did not directly confirm the deal under discussion when asked by Reuters on Wednesday about the talks.
In exchange for the release of scores of women and children from our people in occupation prisons and relief and humanitarian aid to all areas, Israel is refusing and delaying the release of another 50 women and children in captivity. Gaza Strip”, he said.
Qatar’s foreign ministry declined to comment.
Qatar, which hosts Hamas’ political office, has been mediating between the Islamist militant group and Israeli authorities to secure the release of more than 240 hostages. They were captured by militants when they entered Israel on October 7. Israel says 1,200 people were killed during the rampage.
Israel has since launched an incessant bombardment of Hamas-ruled Gaza and launched an armored offensive late last month that has killed more than 11,000 people, including 40% children buried under the rubble, Palestinian officials said.
Israeli War Minister Benny Gantz told a press conference on Wednesday: “Even if we have to suspend the fighting to get our hostages back, we cannot stop the war and the war until we achieve our goals. .”
Asked to elaborate on what was blocking the hostage deal, Gantz declined to give any details.
Earlier, the talks focused on the release of 15 hostages by Hamas and a three-day pause in fighting in Gaza, Gulf and other Middle East sources said.
There was no immediate comment from Qatar’s foreign ministry and Hamas’ political office in Doha.
Two Egyptian security sources said so far agreement had been reached only on limited ceasefires in specific areas of Gaza. They said Israel was reluctant to commit to any broader deal, but appeared to be moving closer to doing so by Tuesday.
The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said on Monday that Qatar had told negotiators it was ready to release 70 women and children in exchange for a five-day ceasefire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that “we are working relentlessly to free the hostages, applying increased pressure since the ground infiltration began.”
Any deal faces many hurdles.
A Western diplomat in the region said it was unclear whether Hamas could now compile an accurate list of hostages it was holding because the war had caused communication and organizational problems in Gaza.
Another source in the region with knowledge of the negotiations said gathering hostages for any simultaneous release that Israel wants would be logistically difficult without a ceasefire.
There was uncertainty over whether Hamas’s military and political leadership would agree, although this was later resolved, and there was concern that Israeli military pressure was making a deal difficult, the same source said.
Reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha, Maya Kebili in Beirut, Aidan Lewis and Ahmed Mohamed Hassan in Cairo, Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Additional reporting by Don Williams and Mayan Lubel in Jerusalem and Nayera Abdullah in Dubai; By Andrew Mills and Angus McDowell; Editing by Michael Georgi, Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich
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