Israel and mediators outline possible hostage deal during Paris talks

War cabinet appears set to approve new proposal including six-week ceasefire and release of roughly 40 hostages


TEL AVIV, ISRAEL - FEBRUARY 24: Security forces and protesters clash during an anti-government demonstration on February 24, 2024 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Frustrations with the government have grown as over 100 hostages remain captive in Gaza, after more than four months of war between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that attacked Israel on Oct. 7. (Photo by Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Israeli security officials returned from negotiation talks in Paris on Saturday hoping that the latest proposals will lead to a breakthrough in securing a hostage release deal with Hamas.

Reports indicate that the updated framework proposes that Hamas releases some 40 hostages in exchange for a six-week ceasefire and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from Israel. While it mirrors certain aspects of a previous negotiation framework, sources told the Axios news site that the latest framework is far more detailed.

"We are working to get another framework for the release of our hostages, as well as the completion of the elimination of the Hamas battalions in Rafah," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday.

"Only a combination of military pressure and tough negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war's objectives," he added.

According to multiple reports, the new proposal would also see the return of thousands of Palestinian women and children to the evacuated enclave of northern Gaza, which Israel has kept cut off from the rest of the region during its military efforts.

A senior government official told Channel 12 that the current proposal would likely be approved by the full cabinet.

Participants in the talks included CIA director Bill Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Abbas Kamel, the director of Egyptian intelligence.

While negotiators were “still far from a deal” according to a senior Israeli official, Hamas has reportedly softened some of its demands.

A report by the Saudi A-Sharq network said Hamas had lowered the number of Palestinian security prisoners it was demanding be released and is no longer insisting on the complete withdrawal of the IDF from Gaza. The terrorist group also appears to have accepted an initial truce of six weeks instead of demanding a permanent ceasefire, which had been a key condition of its earlier stance.

According to Axios, further progess at the talks in Paris will depend on Qatari and Egyptian negotiators’ ability to get Hamas leaders to agree to the terms.

On Friday, Hamas official Osama Hamdan said it has “dealt positively with the proposals and initiatives of the mediators” but that Israel’s position “poses many obstacles to reaching an agreement.”

Hamdan said the Israelis had refused Hamas' main demands to “stop the aggression, to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, to return displaced people to the north (of Gaza), and to make a real reciprocal deal” on a hostage exchange.

Netanyahu reportedly called these demands “delusional.”

According to Axios, Biden administration officials said they want to secure a deal before the start of Ramadan on 10 March. As echoed in the Channel 12 report, if the terms are accepted by Hamas, there is “a high chance that, before March 11, we will see hostages freed for the first time since [the first truce collapsed at the end of] November.”

Netanyahu also announced on Saturday that at the beginning of next week he will convene the security cabinet "to approve the operational plans for an IDF operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there."

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