The Islamist Palestinian movement Hamas could agree to a proposed deal to release Israeli hostages it is still holding in the Gaza Strip if it receives guarantees of a future long-term ceasefire in the war with Israel. This was written by the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday, citing its sources from Hamas political circles.
According to the newspaper’s sources, the leader of the political wing of Hamas, Ismail Hanija, is inclined to approve the draft agreement, if he receives guarantees from its mediators about a comprehensive ceasefire in the final phase of the conflict.
Thus, Hamas would be willing to move forward with negotiations even if the agreement is not accompanied by the declaration of a full and immediate ceasefire, the sources added. This is what Hamas previously set as the main condition for any negotiations on the release of the hostages.
A plan for a new ceasefire and the release of the remaining 130 or so Israeli hostages still held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip since the October 7 terrorist attacks was discussed at a meeting of the intelligence chiefs of the United States, Israel and Egypt and Qatar’s prime minister in Paris on Sunday. Egypt then handed over the proposed text to Hamas, and Hanija is to discuss it with mediators in Cairo.
A senior Israeli official told NBC News on Wednesday that “there are strong indications” that progress will be made on the hostage deal. He added that the terms of the agreement had yet to be read and approved by the entire Israeli government, while the war cabinet had already discussed it.
In a meeting with family members of the hostages on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “real efforts” were being made at the moment to return them and that the government was fully committed to getting everyone back home.
According to the American newspaper The Washington Post, the draft agreement envisages first a six-week pause in the fighting, when all civilians will be released, and then further pauses, during which Hamas would release additional hostages from the ranks of soldiers or police officers and also release the bodies of hostages who died. According to the paper’s sources, Hamas is still holding 109 hostages alive and also has 29 bodies of people who died while in captivity.
Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip following the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, which the US and EU consider a terrorist organization. At the time, Palestinian militants killed 1,200 people on the Israeli border, including a thousand civilians, and took 253 hostages. About a hundred were released during the so far only truce at the end of November.