Hamas, Israel close to finalising deal releasing dozens of hostages, Palestinian prisoners: report

Hamas, Israel close to finalising deal releasing dozens of hostages, Palestinian prisoners: report
Hamas has held over 200 people, mostly Israelis, since October 7 while the Palestinian group is seeking the release of 275 Palestinian women and children by Israel.
3 min read
14 November, 2023
Should a deal go ahead, Israel says it wants the number of hostages and their names confirmed [Getty]

The Palestinian group Hamas and Israel are reportedly close to agreeing on a prisoner exchange deal that would see the release most captured Israeli and imprisoned Palestinian women and children, according to reports.

The Israeli official, on condition of anonymity, told The Washington Post that the broad outline of the deal is "understood" and would see the release of kidnapped Israeli women and children in groups simultaneously with Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons.

Hundreds of Palestinians are detained across different Israeli jails, often unlawfully and without trial.

Over 200 people - mostly Israelis - were kidnapped on 7 October when Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel that it called "Operation Al-Aqsa Flood", killing at least 1,200 Israelis.

Israel has gone on to launch a deadly and indiscriminate onslaught on the enclave, striking hospitals and schools and killing at least 11,240 Palestinians -  mostly women and children - with the death toll increasing by the hundreds daily.

It has also placed the Gaza Strip under a complete siege, depriving residents of water, food, and fuel, while placing the lives of those wounded by strikes and hospital patients in danger.

The report comes as the Al-Qassam Brigades - Hamas's military wing -  revealed to Qatari mediators on Monday that the group was ready to free up to 70 women and children held in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for a five-day truce.

However, the Israeli official said that Israel seeks the release of 100 women and children.

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The number of the Palestinian women and children who will be released in exchange by Israeli remains unclear, though the Washington Post said around 120 are currently held in Israeli prisons.

However, Al-Qassam Brigades spokesperson Abu Obaida said that the group is seeking the release of 200 Palestinian children and 75 Palestinian women.

Hamas’s armed wing said the five-day pause must entail a complete ceasefire and the flow of humanitarian relief into Gaza. Additionally, several rights groups and countries have urged a total truce in the enclave.

The Israeli official told The Washington Post that if the truce goes ahead, it would allow for the safe passage of the Israeli captives and the Palestinian prisoners, saying his country is "committed" to the release of hostages.

"We want as many as possible, as quickly as possible, and no one stays behind," the official said.

Hostage release negotiations between Hamas and Israel have been indirectly conducted through Qatar.

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Additionally, Israeli officials say the deal can only go ahead if the captives are first confirmed and identified by name before their release.

The process of verification is reportedly still being negotiated by officials, according to the US newspaper.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week rejected a similar agreement granting a five-day ceasefire in return for the release of an unspecified number of captured Israelis.

However, the Israeli government is under strong popular pressure over the hostages, with many of their families expressing anger at Netanyahu's government over its handling of the situation with some captives killed in Israeli airstrikes. There have been increasing calls for Israel for Netanyahu to resign.