Hamas and Israel are reportedly engaged in preliminary discussions aimed at reaching a deal for the release of hostages. The proposed agreement specifically focuses on the potential release of around 50 women and children among the 240 hostages currently held by Hamas in Gaza, The Washington Post reported citing an Arab diplomat familiar with the negotiations.
Israel is said to be evaluating the proposal, which entails a three-to-five-day halt in fighting, an increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza, and the release of an unspecified number of women and children held in Israeli prisons.
Significant attention from US officials, including President Joe Biden, has been directed towards these negotiations, with President Biden expressing cautious optimism during a news conference after his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Biden emphasised his deep involvement in the negotiations, stating that military involvement is not being considered, and his efforts are concentrated on facilitating the release of hostages and achieving a substantial pause in hostilities, according to The Washington Post.
“I am mildly hopeful,” President Biden said. In response to a question, he said he was not considering any US military involvement in rescuing the captives. Instead, Biden said he was “working on how I can be helpful in getting the hostages released and have a period of time where there’s a pause long enough to let that happen.”
However, those familiar with the talks have cautioned that the current arrangement being discussed is delicate and could potentially fall apart, mirroring challenges faced in previous negotiations. Previous proposals outlined similar parameters but with varying numbers of hostages involved and conditions for their release. The current outline has only been agreed upon “in general terms,” The Washington Post cited an anonymous Arab diplomat as saying.
Anticipation is high for a response from Israel, with expectations that a positive response would lead to swift action, while a rejection would necessitate a return to negotiations. The overarching hope is that an agreement on some aspects of the hostage release could pave the way for broader discussions about the release of all captives.
Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of his war cabinet, have refrained from commenting on the potential hostage deal. Meanwhile, Netanyahu, speaking from a military post in southern Israel, said, “I’ve been talking with the people involved every single day. I believe it’s going to happen.”
The situation in Gaza has become increasingly complex since the hostages were taken during Hamas’s attack on October 7, resulting in substantial casualties. Complicating matters is the lack of direct communication between Israel, the United States, and Hamas, with negotiations conducted indirectly in Doha, Qatar. Despite challenges, progress was reportedly made during indirect talks between CIA Director William J Burns, Mossad Director David Barnea, and Hamas’s political leaders in Doha, as reported by The Washington Post.
The ongoing conflict in Gaza has garnered international attention, with the UN Security Council approving a resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and the release of all hostages. The lack of media access to Gaza has limited outside observers’ understanding of the situation, with reports suggesting that the conflict has led to a severe humanitarian crisis.
The conflict has also seen attempts to encircle al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical facility in Gaza, raising concerns about potential civilian casualties. Hamas has indicated challenges in determining the location and control of all hostages, some of whom may be held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
As President Biden and US officials work towards securing a significant pause in hostilities and the release of hostages, the situation remains fluid, with the potential for developments in the coming days, The Washington Post reported. (ANI)