Hamas agrees ‘in principle’ to new hostage deal–report

Three anonymous Israeli officials have stated that they are reacting with caution since it isn’t clear whether Hamas is serious.

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

After rebuffing an offer of a renewed hostage deal two weeks ago, Hamas seems to have agreed “in principle” to the release of 40-50 hostages to Israel in exchange for another one to two-week pause in fighting according to several Israeli sources quoted on the Walla news site.

Qatari mediators have reported that Hamas may be open to a renewal of negotiations, although three Israeli officials have stated that they are reacting with caution since it isn’t clear whether Hamas is serious.

On October 7th, 240 hostages were taken by Hamas from southern Israel, and in late November, just over 100 hostages were freed during a week-long ceasefire and the release of hundreds of women and teenage Palestinian prisoners.

To secure the release of the additional hostages in Hamas captivity, Mossad director David Barnea met with CIA director William Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Warsaw in mid-December to negotiate a renewed agreement.

However, Hamas rejected the proposal and indicated that no hostages would be released unless Israel agreed to a permanent ceasefire.

Given Hamas’ prior and relatively recent refusal, Israeli officials are expressing skepticism but with a degree of muted hope.

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One official said, “We move from a freeze to a situation that is very cold.”

The Mossad chief’s proposal was for the release of 40-50 hostages, including the remaining women, elderly men, and men with serious injuries in exchange for a pause in fighting of one or two weeks and the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners.

Currently, Israeli officials are awaiting more details about Hamas’ alleged willingness to negotiate, with one admitting, “In any case, the gaps remain large.”

The pressure to secure the release of hostages is growing as more details are coming to light about conditions in captivity.

Freed hostages report being denied basic medical care as well as experiencing physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.

Many speak of being unable to breathe properly in tunnels and receiving only a pita a day to eat and dirty water to drink.