Israel and Hamas reportedly close to hostage deal to release Israeli women and children

Negotiations mediated by Qatari officials indicate a prisoner swap is potentially on the table


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Israel and Hamas are on the verge of completing a hostage deal that would free most of the women and children kidnapped on October 7, according to a high-ranking Israeli official.

“The general outline of the deal is understood,” the Israeli official said in an interview with the Washington Post on Monday, requesting that his identity remain anonymous. 

The provisional agreement includes a prisoner swap, with the simultaneous release of groups of Israeli women and children from Gaza and Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons. 

A Hamas official said on Monday that they told Qatari mediators the group was ready to release up to 70 women and children held in Gaza in return for a five-day ceasefire with Israel, according to a statement by one of its officials on the group’s Telegram channel cited by Reuters on Monday. The temporary truce would allow the hostages to safely return and humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians in Gaza.  

The Israeli official told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that a total of 240 to 250 hostages are being held and that his government is determined to free all of them, including the roughly 90 male civilians and a group of IDF soldiers. 

Most of the hostages are Israeli citizens, although some hold dual citizenship in the US, Germany, and other countries. According to the Israeli official, about 35 of the hostages are non-Israeli foreigners who were working in Israel when they were kidnapped.

“We want as many as possible, as quickly as possible, and no one stays behind,” the official said. 

Qatari officials have reportedly been mediating negotiations between Israel and Hamas, offering a channel of communication with Hamas political leaders in the country that has been essential to both American and Israeli diplomacy efforts.

In an interview last week, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani said: “This is a positive first step that we hope to build upon in the coming days. We’re hopeful that it can lead to something longer and more sustainable.”  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has remained tight-lipped on the subject of hostage negotiations, saying in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press": “I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materialises."

On 12 November, US President Joe Biden met with Amir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani of Qatar and discussed “the need to protect innocent civilians and ongoing efforts to increase the continuous flow of urgently needed humanitarian assistance into Gaza”, according to a White House press release. Biden also expressed his appreciation for Qatari aid in mediation efforts between Israel and Hamas.

Mossad has worked alongside Qataris and the CIA to formulate the hostage deal, the success of which would mark a turning point in what has been the bloodiest chapter of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in decades.

The news of this tentative agreement comes around the same time that Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant proclaimed that Hamas has lost control of the Gaza strip, with IDF soldiers breaching Hamas headquarters underneath a children’s hospital in northern Gaza City.

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