Hamas has agreed in principle for possible deal to free hostages in Gaza, and Israel is now considering a proposal for the release of at least 50 women and children among about 240 foreign and Israeli hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, according to an Arab diplomat familiar with the negotiations.
The hostage crisis began on Oct. 7, when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel, firing hundreds of rockets and sending commandos across the border.
The attack, which Hamas said was in response to Israel’s blockade and occupation of Gaza, killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounded thousands more.
Israel retaliated with a massive aerial and ground offensive, targeting Hamas’s rocket launchers, tunnels, and leaders. The war has been raging for more than a month, with no sign of a ceasefire.
During the attack, Hamas militants kidnapped about 240 people, including Americans and other foreign nationals, as well as Israeli civilians and soldiers.
Some of the hostages were taken from their homes, hotels, or workplaces, while others were captured on the streets or at border crossings.
Hamas has not disclosed the exact number, location, or condition of the hostages, but has released some videos and photos of them, demanding a prisoner swap with Israel.
The hostages are being held in undisclosed locations in Gaza, where they face the risk of being killed or injured by Israeli airstrikes.
The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on Wednesday calling for the release of hostages held by Hamas and for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors to be opened in Gaza.
According to the Arab diplomat, who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity, Hamas has agreed in principle to release at least 50 women and children among the hostages in exchange for a three-to-five-day pause “in place” in the fighting, increased humanitarian aid to Gaza, and the release of an unspecified number of women and children held in Israeli prisons.
The diplomat claimed that Qatar, which is acting as a mediator between Hamas and Israel, facilitated the agreement with the assistance of the United States and other nations.
If Israel accepts the agreement, it may open the door to a longer-term ceasefire and a potential resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. It could also save the lives of the hostages, who have been suffering in captivity for more than a month.
The families and supporters of the hostages have been holding protests and vigils in Israel and around the world, calling for their release. On Wednesday, they marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, holding posters with the names and faces of the hostages.
President Biden said on Wednesday that he was “deeply involved” in the negotiations and that he was “mildly hopeful” that a deal could be reached.
He said that he had spoken to Qatar’s leader, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, on Sunday about ongoing efforts to increase humanitarian assistance in Gaza and to secure the release of all hostages.
According to the White House, a 3-year-old American, whose parents were killed by Hamas on Oct. 7, is among the hostages.
However, the deal could face several challenges, as both sides have their own demands and conditions. Israel has said that it will not stop its military campaign until it destroys Hamas’s rocket and tunnel infrastructure and that it will not negotiate with a terrorist organization.
Hamas has said that it will not stop its rocket attacks until Israel lifts its blockade on Gaza, and that it will not release the hostages without a prisoner swap.
The deal could also be opposed by some factions within Hamas, which is divided between its political and military wings, and by other militant groups in Gaza, such as Islamic Jihad, which may not abide by the terms of the deal.
The deal could also be complicated by the involvement of other regional actors, such as Egypt, Turkey and Iran, which have their own interests and agendas in the conflict.
Israel is considering the proposal, but it could easily fall apart, according to the diplomat who spoke to the Post. The diplomat told the newspaper that if the Israelis agree, “it’s going to happen quickly. If they reject it, then we’re at it again.”
Israeli soldiers are looking at damaged building.
Despite the challenges, the deal could offer a glimmer of hope for ending the violence and easing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which has been under siege for more than a decade.
The deal could also pave the way for a longer-term ceasefire and a possible resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.
The deal could also save the lives of the hostages, who have been suffering in captivity for more than a month. The families and supporters of the hostages have been holding protests and vigils in Israel and around the world, calling for their release.
On Wednesday, they marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, holding posters with the names and faces of the hostages.
Hamas and Israel are in talks over a possible deal to release some of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, in exchange for a pause in the fighting, humanitarian aid, and prisoner release.
The deal, which Qatar and the U.S. are mediating, might put an end to the month-long conflict that has killed and injured thousands of people. However, the deal faces many challenges and uncertainties, as both sides have their own demands and conditions, and other actors may interfere.
The deal could also save the lives of the hostages, who have been suffering in captivity for more than a month, and whose families and supporters have been calling for their release.