Israel, the United States, and Hamas appear to be on the verge of reaching a significant agreement aimed at securing the release of dozens of women and children who were kidnapped and taken to Gaza on October 7th. In exchange for their release, the parties are considering a five-day ceasefire, marking a potential turning point in the ongoing conflict. Sources with knowledge of the negotiations reported these developments on Sunday morning.
The proposed deal, outlined in a comprehensive six-page document, entails a commitment from all involved parties to halt their military operations for a minimum of five days. During this period, a sequence of releases is expected, with 50 or more hostages set to be freed in increments every 24 hours. Strict monitoring and follow-up mechanisms will be put in place to ensure that all parties adhere to the terms of the truce.
Qatar has no incentive to try and speed up a hostage release deal. Doha's involvement in orchestrating a supposed deal is the only thing distracting from the fact that Qatar is hosting Hamas's top leadership and impeding pressure from being put on Doha to expel them. https://t.co/uN2m77vKdj— Israel War Room (@IsraelWarRoom) November 17, 2023
Furthermore, this temporary ceasefire is anticipated to create an opportunity for increased humanitarian aid to flow into the Gaza Strip, including essential supplies such as fuel, coming from Egypt. This could help alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in the region.
Remarkably, these negotiations were facilitated through indirect talks in Doha, Qatar, where Israeli, American, and Hamas representatives were all involved. Arab diplomats played a crucial mediating role in the discussions. However, it was previously uncertain whether Israel would consent to a temporary suspension of its ground operations in Gaza. In response to inquiries, an Israeli embassy spokesperson in Washington declined to provide an official statement, leaving the situation somewhat ambiguous.
The Biden administration initially faced internal divisions regarding its stance on the conflict, with some advocating for a complete ceasefire while others emphasized the urgency of securing the release of American hostages. President Joe Biden ultimately voiced his support for a ceasefire, underscoring the need for a respite from hostilities. "I think we need a break," President Biden stated two weeks ago, expressing his determination to secure the prisoners' release.
A week later, when asked about reports suggesting he had pressed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a three-day truce, President Biden clarified that he had requested an even longer ceasefire. He reiterated his commitment to the hostages during a press conference following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, emphasizing that they were "in our thoughts every single day." He also conveyed his dedication to finding a way to "get a period of time where there is a long enough pause" to facilitate their release.
Report: Israel-Hamas close to deal to free Hostages, pause fighting— i24NEWS English (@i24NEWS_EN) November 19, 2023
'I think that every single one of us is sitting right now and saying how can you do it for only a fraction...if you can release the children, the babies, some of the women, the families...how can you not do… pic.twitter.com/wFLlYtbfgo
According to senior officials in the Biden administration, a temporary truce would offer Hamas an opportunity to safely retrieve the abductees from the battlefield. It remains uncertain whether American or other foreign nationals will be included in this prospective release. The administration's hope is that a successful release of the women and children may pave the way for the liberation of other groups of abductees in the future.
Brett McGurk, a senior member of the White House National Security Council specializing in the Middle East, has embarked on an extensive trip to the region with the goal of formulating a plan for the safe release of the abductees. His journey has included crucial meetings in Israel and Qatar. Speaking at an international security conference held in Bahrain, McGurk described the negotiations as "intense and ongoing." Nonetheless, at this juncture, there is no confirmation regarding the concrete realization of the proposed deal.