3 sources said that the Islamic Resistance Movement (agitation) and Israel have largely agreed, in principle, to the possibility of exchanging Israeli prisoners for Palestinian prisoners, during a truce lasting one month.
Reuters quoted the sources as saying that the framework plan was delayed due to differences between the two sides regarding how to reach a permanent end to the war in Gaza strip.
One of the sources – an official familiar with the negotiations – said that the latest round of diplomatic efforts began on December 28, 2023, and reduced the differences over the duration of the initial ceasefire to about 30 days, after Hamas initially proposed a truce for several months.
Intensive mediation efforts – led by Qatar, the United States and Egypt in the past few weeks – focused on a gradual approach to releasing different categories of Israeli prisoners, starting with civilians and ending with soldiers in exchange for a cessation of hostilities, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the entry of more aid into Gaza.
One of the sources – a Palestinian official familiar with the mediation efforts, according to Reuters – said that while Israel seeks to negotiate one stage at a time, Hamas seeks to reach a “comprehensive deal” in which a permanent ceasefire is agreed upon before the prisoners are released during the initial stage. .
Hamas requires guarantees
Two Egyptian security sources said that work is underway to persuade Hamas to accept a month-long truce followed by a permanent ceasefire. But the sources said that Hamas is demanding guarantees to implement the second phase of the agreement in order to approve the initial truce.
In response to a question about the negotiations, Hamas leader Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters – last Monday – that the movement is open to discussing ideas, but no agreement has been reached yet.
Abu Zuhri added, “We are open to all initiatives and proposals, but any agreement must be based on ending the aggression and complete withdrawal of the occupation from the Gaza Strip.”
A senior Hamas official said that one of the offers made by Israel was to end the war if Hamas removed 6 senior leaders from Gaza. But he added that Hamas “absolutely” rejects this proposal.
The sources said that Hamas is seeking guarantees that Israel will not resume the war.
The Palestinian official explained that Hamas wants the United States, Egypt and Qatar to ensure implementation, and is concerned that the government of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Fighting will resume once Hamas releases civilian prisoners, even if Israeli soldiers remain detained.
The American source said that Hamas sought during this tour to release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons.
The official familiar with the talks said that Hamas has since softened that request, which Israel is likely to strongly oppose.
In this context, a Wall Street Journal report quoted Egyptian officials as saying that Hamas informed mediators that it was ready to talk about the release of civilian women and children, in exchange for a “considerable” ceasefire.
Qatar and Washington played an active role in negotiating a week-long truce in November 2023, which led to the release of more than 100 Israeli prisoners and about 240 Palestinian prisoners.
A White House spokesman said – yesterday, Tuesday – that US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk is in the region for the second time in a week, to hold discussions on the release of prisoners, and that Washington will support a longer-term “humanitarian truce.”
An official familiar with the negotiations said that starting on December 28, Qatari negotiators sent a new agreement framework to Hamas and Israel, and asked both sides to indicate what they were willing to agree to.
The official said that when the two sides responded earlier this month, Hamas sought a truce that would last several months, while Israel wanted to release all the hostages within weeks.
The official said that over the past few weeks, American and Qatari mediators were able to bring the two sides closer to agreeing on a 30-day process, which includes the release of all prisoners, the entry of more aid into Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
Despite the difficulty of narrowing the gap in positions, one of the sources – who is familiar with the discussions – described the talks as intense, and said that an agreement could be reached “at any moment.”
Netanyahu is under pressure
On the other hand, five sources told Reuters that Israel refused to discuss any end to the war that did not include “the liquidation of the Hamas movement.”
Israeli government spokesman Elon Levy said – in a press conference yesterday – that efforts are continuing to ensure the release of the prisoners. He added that Israel would not agree to a ceasefire agreement that would keep Hamas running the Strip.
Nearly 4 months after the operation Al-Aqsa flood Launched by the Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation, which resulted in the death of more than 1,200 people, the violent Israeli attack on Gaza was unable to eliminate the senior leadership of Hamas or its ability to fight, despite the destruction of a large part of the Gaza Strip, and the martyrdom of more than 25,000 Palestinians.
Netanyahu stressed this week that only a “complete victory” over Hamas will put an end to the war, but pressure is increasing on him to reach an agreement, including pressure from members of the war government he heads, and the families of about 130 prisoners who are still being held by the Palestinian resistance.
Last Monday, the Israeli occupation army suffered the highest daily death toll in its attack on Gaza, amounting to 24 people, including 21 in a rocket attack in central Gaza, and 3 in other places.
Continuing Qatari efforts
Yesterday, Tuesday, Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said that mediation efforts are continuing in Gaza, but he stressed that the escalation taking place in the Strip affects these efforts aimed at ending the crisis.
Al-Ansari added that his country is engaged in serious negotiations and discussions between the two sides of the crisis in Gaza, but he explained that the situation there is changing, noting that the breakdown in communication and the failure to deliver aid to the Strip are affecting mediation efforts.
He continued that the challenges are great to resolve the crisis in Gaza, especially with the escalation of the war there, stressing that the continuation of this war will only lead to more losses.
On the other hand, Netanyahu believes that Qatar’s mediation role in the exchange deal with Hamas “represents a problem.”
Channel 12 reported – based on a leaked recording of Netanyahu meeting with the families of prisoners detained in Gaza – that Qatar is more problematic than the United Nations and the Red Cross.
He added that he was disappointed that Washington was not putting more pressure on Doha, and that it had extended its presence at the military base in Qatar.
Netanyahu indicated that he did not thank Qatar publicly; Because it did not put more pressure on the Hamas movement, which Doha is believed to be financing.