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Hope of a deal to release dozens of Hamas hostages

TJI Wrap
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Published: 21 November 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

A mooted agreement could involve a pause in fighting of four to five days  in exchange for the release of 50 of the approximately 240 hostages.

The Hostages and Missing Families Forum has contacted close relatives of hostages held in the Gaza Strip, informing them of a "significant progress" in the negotiations with Hamas towards a release deal.

However, the group, which includes security, law, media and diplomacy experts  as well as family and friends of the the hostages, clarified that although the process is underway, it may continue for several more days.

The growing hope follows statements from several officials indicating Hamas and Israel are inching closer to a deal for release of some of the hostages held in Gaza.

Hamas took an estimated 240 people hostage during their October 7 attacks, which killed 1200 Israelis.

The Israeli ambassador to the US told the US ABC network on Sunday that he is hopeful a deal for the release of a significant number of hostages. Michael Herzog said that "serious efforts" were being made, but that the fewer details he revealed, "the better the chances of such a deal".

Qatar, which has been mediating, also says a deal is within reach. Qatar's Prime Minister, Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, said on Sunday that only "very minor" practical and logistical obstacles remain, adding that "we are close enough to reach a deal".

The Washington Post reported that Israel and Hamas are "close to agreement on a US-brokered deal that would free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting", citing "people familiar with the emerging terms".

US Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer also indicated on Sunday that a deal to release the hostages was becoming more likely.

“We think that we are closer than we have been perhaps at any point since these negotiations began weeks ago, that there are areas of difference and disagreement that have been narrowed, if not closed out entirely,” Finer told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union, stressing that these are sensitive negotiations, and no deal is in place.

Finer declined to dive into the details of the talks, but said officials are working around the clock and that it remains a priority for President Joe Biden.

CNN reported two sources had cited a potential deal involving a four-to-five-day pause in fighting in exchange for the initial release of 50 hostages.

Israel has presented a list of about 100 civilian hostages it wants included in the agreement, one source told CNN. Israel has publicly demanded that all hostages be released. Hamas indicated it would be willing to release 50 hostages over a multi-day pause. More hostages, about 20 to 25, could be released after that as the pauses are extended.

But Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian sources have all emphasised no agreement has yet been reached and negotiations remain tenuous. Hamas temporarily put the negotiations on hold after Israel’s raid of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza and could do so again.


Israel, Hamas Inching Close Toward Hostage Deal, Reports Say (Haaretz)

Israel hopeful of Hamas deal to release hostages in 'coming days' (BBC)

Negotiations to free hostages held by Hamas are closer than ‘perhaps any point,’ White House official says (CNN)

Negotiators nearing a deal for initial release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas (CNN)

Photo: Family members, friends and supporters of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem on Saturday (EPA/ABIR SULTAN)

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