Israel mulls 1-2 week ceasefire to secure release of dozens of hostages

Mossad chief David Barnea made the offer to Qatari negotiators in Europe.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel offered Hamas Monday a week-long humanitarian pause in the Gazan war and more Palestinian prisoners in exchange for some 40 hostages during renewed negotiations with Qatar in Warsaw, Walla reported Tuesday.

Citing two unnamed senior Israeli sources and one foreign source, the report said that the aim is to free men over the age of 60, those suffering from life-threatening conditions or serious wounds sustained in their kidnapping that require urgent medical care, and the 14 remaining women who were not released in last month’s deal with the terror organization.

At the time, 80 Israeli women and children were exchanged in seven lots over the course of a week’s pause in the fighting for increased humanitarian aid and over 240 lower-level Palestinian security prisoners, limited mostly to females and those who were minors at the time of their attacks.

In return for the forty, the sources said that Jerusalem would release prisoners who were convicted of more serious attacks. A “significant number of such prisoners,” said the report, are older or suffer from serious illnesses and thus they could be released on a humanitarian basis.

Unrelated to the November deal, almost two dozen foreigners, mostly Thai agricultural workers, and one Russian-Israeli man were also released over the course of the week-long exchange, leaving some 136 hostages still in Gazan terrorist hands, 19 of whom have been declared dead by Israel.

The current reported outline would therefore leave over 70 live hostages in the Gaza Strip.

The Walla sources said that Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told Mossad chief David Barnea and his CIA counterpart, Bill Burns, that Hamas’ position was that it would only renew hostage negotiations if Israel completely stopped its military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Barnea, they said, replied that if Hamas wants the war to end, it must lay down its weapons and hand over its leaders who were involved in planning the October 7 terrorist attack.

The Israeli message to Doha was that they should use their influence with Hamas to be more forthcoming. Qatar has provided the terror organization with hundreds of millions of dollars in aid over the last two decades, and hosts its senior echelon in lavish conditions to this day.

According to a source cited by Reuters, the latest talks have focused on “different proposals in an attempt to progress on negotiations.” Although the talks were “positive,” the source said, “an agreement is not expected imminently.”

In a report by The Washington Post, Israel is considering agreeing to a two-week ceasefire, enabling  Hamas to bring together all Israeli hostages in the Gaza Strip – many of whom are currently being held by groups other than Hamas, or by Gazans unaffiliated with any terror group.

The report also said Israel is considering agreeing to a Hamas demand that the IDF pull back its forces after the ceasefire, limiting the operation to northern Gaza.

Four of the women who are still in captivity are IDF soldiers who were serving in the Nahal Oz IDF border base when Hamas terrorists overran several army installations, over 20 communities and a dance rave on October 7, massacring 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting some 240, including the elderly and infants, back into the Gaza Strip.

Israel also believes that another, Shiri Bibas, together with her two young children, one an infant, are still alive as well, although Hamas has said that they are dead, without providing any evidence.

A Saudi news site reported last week that Qatar and Israel were discussing an exchange that includes men and IDF officers for 300 security prisoners, including Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti.