Hamas rejects hostage deal that Israel reportedly accepted

Contrary to an earlier report by Sky News, Israel did not officially announce it had agreed to the latest version of the hostage release deal.

By Vered Weiss, World Israel News

Amid speculation that a hostage deal was nearly finalized, Hamas has rejected the latest proposal negotiated by the US, Qatar and Egypt.

In rejecting the deal, Hamas declared that “Israel must cease its aggression and withdraw from Gaza before any exchange transaction takes place.”

Israel was getting closer to agreeing on the hostage release deal negotiated in Paris, although Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not issue an official statement.

Contrary to an earlier report by Sky News, Israel had not yet announced it has agreed to the latest version of the hostage release deal which would require Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners to secure the release of the remaining hostages in Gaza.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that talks of a hostage deal in Europe were “constructive,” but added that “there are significant gaps” that need to be closed before a deal can be accepted, as reported by the Times of Israel.

Over the weekend, a four-way meeting involving the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt, which reportedly took place in Paris, concluded with a proposal that would free all of the remaining hostages in Gaza in exchange for a two-month ceasefire.

Present at the meeting were CIA Director Bill Burns, David Barnea, the head of the Mossad, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel.

Representatives from Shin Bet and the Israeli military were also in attendance.

It is reported that 136 hostages remain in Gaza, although approximately 30 of them are believed to have been killed.

The Associated Press reports that the potential deal will involve two phases, the first requiring a pause in fighting so women, elderly men and wounded hostages could be released.

The second phase would involve the release of the remaining hostages, including male soldiers.

During both phases, Israel would agree to the passage of increased humanitarian aid into Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners.

US officials have expressed hope that, although this agreement won’t end the war in Gaza, it could create a framework for the cessation of hostilities.

Although the New York Times reported that “progress” had been made, Israel’s Channel 12 dampened expectations by reporting that Hamas is still clinging to its demand for a permanent ceasefire before any hostages are released.

A previous hostage agreement reached an impasse when, in addition to requiring a ceasefire, Hamas insisted that they would retain power in the Gaza Strip and that Israeli forces would completely withdraw from the area.

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