Negotiations are underway to reach a three-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the release of about a dozen hostages held by Hamas. That’s according to two officials from Egypt, one from the United Nations and a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic efforts.
The deal would enable more aid, including limited amounts of fuel, to enter the besieged territory to alleviate worsening conditions for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped there. It is being brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States, according to the officials and the diplomat.
One of the Egyptian officials says details of the deal were discussed this week in Cairo with the visiting CIA chief and an Israeli delegation. The official said mediators are finalising a draft deal.
A senior US official said the Biden administration has not put forward any specific time frame for a pause in Israel’s military operations but has suggested that Israel consider tying the length of a pause to the release of a certain number of hostages.
If an agreement on the duration of the pause and the number of hostages to be freed can be reached and the deal successfully implemented, the same formula could be revisited for additional pauses and releases, according to the official.
Palestinians flee to the southern Gaza Strip on Salah al-Din Street in Bureij, Gaza Strip. Photo / AP
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any temporary cease-fire would have to be accompanied by the release of the hostages who were seized by Hamas during the militant group’s October 7 assault on southern Israel. Israel has said around 240 hostages, both Israelis and those with foreign passports, are currently held in Gaza.
A three-day cease-fire would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid across Gaza, including the northern area, the focus of Israel’s military campaign to crush the territory’s Hamas rulers. Under the proposed deal, some fuel would also enter Gaza for the first time since the start of the war, to be distributed to hospitals and bakeries under UN supervision.
Israel has barred fuel shipments to Gaza since the start of the war, arguing Hamas would divert them for military use. Over the past month, only limited amounts of aid, such as medicine, food and water, have entered Gaza. Aid workers say it’s not nearly enough to meet mounting needs.
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Under the proposed truce deal, Hamas would release a dozen civilian hostages, most of them foreign passport holders, and provide a complete list of hostages to mediators, according to the officials. The International Committee of the Red Cross would be allowed to visit the hostages.
The diplomat said the talks are complex because of the involvement of different parties in the region and in Western capitals.
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