The proposed deal would involve staged ceasefires in Gaza and the release of convicted Palestinians terrorists from Israeli jails.
Israel and Hamas are working on a “compelling” deal to release the estimated 132 remaining hostages in exchange for an extended ceasefire, the UN Security Council was told this week.
The agreement could be reached early next week, according to Egyptian sources quoted in the London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed newspaper.
The deal is believed to involve a three-stage truce which would enable the release of all hostages, in exchange for a combination of staged ceasefires and the release of Palestinian security prisoners.
Phase one would see a six-week pause in fighting, during which civilian hostages would be released, and three Palestinian prisoners would be freed for each hostage. A higher ratio would be applied in later phases, when IDF soldiers and bodies of dead hostages would be released, perhaps alongside a longer truce.
“The proposal on the table is strong, and it is compelling,” US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the UN Security Council on Wednesday. “It envisions a much longer humanitarian pause than we saw in November, and it would allow for us to get the hostages out and more life-saving food, water, and medicine into Gaza.”
Israel agreed to the framework at a meeting in Paris on Sunday with the US, Qatar, and Egypt.
“Hamas now has a choice to make. It can continue to dig tunnels, to plan for its next attack, to use civilians and civilian infrastructure as human shields, or Hamas can lay down its weapons and accept the proposal on the table to release every hostage,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
While Israel has not agreed to an end to the war, Thomas-Greenfield said an exchange deal and temporary ceasefires would bring a permanent cessation to hostilities much closer.
The November deal saw the release of 104 hostages for 240 female and underage Palestinian prisoners freed and a week-long ceasefire. Hamas is demanding the release of a larger number of prisoners, including terrorists who are known killers.
The fact that the architect of the October 7 massacre Yahya Sinwar was among those set free in exchange for hostage Gilad Shalit in 2011 underscores the difficulty for Israel of such exchanges.
There are an estimated 8,600 Palestinian security prisoners in Israeli jails, including about 1,000 who either participated in the October 7 slaughter or have been captured in the course of the war since.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told students at a pre-military academy in the West Bank that Israel would not release “thousands of terrorists” or withdraw from Gaza.
“We will not remove the IDF from the Gaza Strip and we will not release thousands of terrorists,” he pledged, speaking at the Bnei David academy in Eli. “None of this will happen. What will happen? Absolute victory!”
Speaking to hostage families, Netanyahu refused a request to designate the release of the hostages as his highest priority among the other goals of the war — above the elimination of Hamas, and the demilitarization of Gaza — telling the families: “It is not possible to advance one goal of the war at the expense of harming other goals.”
Netanyahu is facing internal political pressure over the deal. Both National Unity and Otzma Yehudit threatened on Tuesday to leave the emergency government over a “reckless” deal.
Opposition Leader Yair Lapid said that his Yesh Atid party is prepared to enter the government to replace them if that is what is needed to secure the release of the hostages from Gaza.
Is there a way to bring the hostages home without derailing the war against Hamas? (David Horovitz, Times of Israel)
Hamas demands appear to present near-impossible dilemma, especially for riven government. But IDF believes there is a path forward.
Despite American and Qatari optimism, Israel-Hamas deal remains elusive (Amos Harel, Haaretz)
The United States needs an accomplishment – like the release of Israeli hostages – but it is running out of patience with Netanyahu’s policies.
When Hamas says no to a deal, what does it mean? (Avi Issacharoff, Ynet)
Analysis: The internal dispute between the leadership of the terror organization in the Gaza Strip and abroad, the CIA’s move that pushed them into a corner, and the military pressure from the IDF all indicate that the response may change.