November 30, 2023

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Exclusively: Qatar seeks an agreement between Israel and Hamas to free 50 hostages and a truce for 3 days

Exclusively: Qatar seeks an agreement between Israel and Hamas to free 50 hostages and a truce for 3 days

  • 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 includes the release of about 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, an official familiar with the negotiations said. Reuters.

The deal, under discussion and coordination 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 that agreement, but Israel — which has since bombed and sent troops into Gaza — has not negotiated the details and is still negotiating them.

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 Qatari-led negotiations has changed dramatically in recent weeks, but the reality is that the talks are now focused 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 negotiations. The deal has not been previously announced.

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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 viewed as a “psychological war” waged by Palestinian militants.

When Reuters asked on Wednesday about the negotiations, Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’s political bureau, did not directly confirm the agreement under discussion.

Israel still “refuses and delays the release of 50 women and children prisoners and a true humanitarian truce, in exchange for the release of a number of women and children from our people in occupation prisons and the delivery of relief and humanitarian aid to all areas of the West Bank.” Gaza Strip,” he said.

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment.

Qatar, where Hamas runs a political office, is leading mediation between the armed Islamic movement and Israeli officials in order to release more than 240 hostages. They were kidnapped by gunmen when they stormed 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.

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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 goals.” “.

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.

Barriers

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.

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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 Mohammed Hassan in Cairo, and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza – Prepared by Mohammed for the Arab Bulletin – Editing by Mohammed Al-Yamani) Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Mayan Lobel in Jerusalem and Naira Abdullah in Dubai – Prepared by Mohammed for the Bulletin Arabic Writing by Andrew Mills and Angus McDowell. Edited by Michael Georgi, Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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