Are Israel and Hamas nearing a ‘hostage’ deal? What to know

Qatari-mediated negotiations aim to free 50 captives in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, according to media reports.

Demonstrators in London hold banners as they form a human chain outside the Qatar embassy in a protest calling for the release of the Israeli hostages.
Demonstrators in London hold banners as they form a human chain outside the Qatar embassy in a protest calling for the release of the Israeli captives [Maja Smiejkowska/Reuters]

Israel and Hamas are believed to be negotiating a deal to free dozens of people in Hamas captivity in exchange for a three-day ceasefire, according to the Reuters news agency and Axios, a US-based digital publication. Qatari mediators are seeking to negotiate the deal, which could also see the release of some Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.

Here are the details:

What do the reports say?

The deal is still under discussion in coordination with the United States – a close ally of Israel – some of whose citizens are among the captives.

Part of the deal includes the release of about 50 civilian captives in Gaza, a rapid jump from previous reports that suggested Hamas would release 10-15 captives. Hamas would also have to divulge the complete list of remaining living civilian hostages held in Gaza, according to an official briefed on the negotiations.

Israel too would release some Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails. However, how many would be released is not known yet. Israel would also increase the amount of humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza, the official said.

Qatar, where Hamas operates a political office, has a direct line of communication with both Israel and Hamas and has previously worked on negotiating truces between the two. Qatari mediation efforts have so far led to the release of four out of around 240 hostages who Israeli officials estimate were taken by Hamas on October 7.

The Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs declined to comment on the deal.

US President Joe Biden said that he was “mildly hopeful” that there would be a deal to free Hamas-held captives on Wednesday.

What did Israel say?

There was no immediate response from Israeli officials, who have previously declined to provide detailed comment on negotiations to release the captives.

But the official involved in the negotiations said that Israel has not agreed to the terms of the deal and is still negotiating the details.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued to bombard Gaza and its forces raided the al-Shifa Hospital – the enclave’s largest medical facility. The Israeli military assault has so far killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, around 40 percent of them children, with more buried under the rubble.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that “we have been working relentlessly for the release of the hostages, including using increased pressure since the start of the ground incursion”.

He has been under pressure from the families of the captives, who have urged the government to negotiate their release.

What did Hamas say?

Izzat El Rashq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, did not directly confirm the deal under discussion when asked by Reuters. There was also no immediate comment from the Hamas political office in Doha.

Thai Muslim politicians said on Thursday they had received assurances from Hamas that all the Thai hostages being held would be among those released if mediators succeed in brokering a truce in Gaza.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, said on Monday that it had told Qatari negotiators it was willing to release up to 70 women and children in return for a five-day truce, according to Reuters.

How many captives have been released so far?

Four captives have been released so far after negotiations through diplomatic channels with mediation from countries that have included Qatar and Egypt.

On October 20, Hamas released the first captives – US citizens Judith Raanan, 59, and her daughter, Natalie Raanan, 17 – saying it was for “humanitarian reasons”.

On October 23, two Israeli women – Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 – were also released.

According to the Israeli military, a fifth person, a soldier, Private Ori Megidish, was rescued on October 30 during a ground raid inside Gaza.

Citizens of Russia, the United States, France, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Germany, Argentina and the Netherlands are believed to be among those in Hamas captivity. Thailand is in talks with Iran and other governments to secure the release of 23 of its citizens held in Gaza.

Source: News Agencies