Israel open to resuming hostage-prisoner talks with Hamas: report

Israel open to resuming hostage-prisoner talks with Hamas: report
Hamas officials have dismissed the possibility of any possible new hostage-prisoner deal as long as Israel continues to strike Gaza.
3 min read
12 December, 2023
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet have been criticised for failing to secure the safe return of hostages from Gaza [Ronen Zvulun/Pool/AFP via Getty]

Israel is open to resuming talks for hostages taken by Hamas on 7 October to be released in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli detention, Israeli security sources have said.

An Israeli security source claimed that  it a good time for Israel for talks to be resumed because Israel's onslaught on the south of the Gaza Strip had Hamas "on the back foot", Channel 12 reported.

Fighting is still ongoing throughout the Gaza Strip, with five Israeli soldiers being killed on Monday. A previous Israeli attempt to free a hostage held by Hamas ended in failure, with the hostage, who Hamas said was a soldier, killed in the crossfire.

Israel s open to speaking to Qatar, a key mediator in previous releases of hostages, Channel 12 reported.

"If the Qataris want to talk, we will listen," Channel 12 cited a senior Israeli official as saying.

A hostage-prisoner exchange deal last month saw 84 Israeli women and children hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners freed, during a ceasefire that lasted a week and ended on 1 December.

Israel says that 137 hostages remain held by Hamas in Gaza, 126 of them Israeli. The hostages were taken during a large-scale attack on Israel by fighters from the Palestinian group on 7 October.

Women, children, the elderly, and sick or injured hostages would be the priority in any new deal, Channel 12 cited the official as saying.

Hamas officials have dismissed the possibility of any possible new deal as long as Israel continues to strike Gaza.

The group "will not conclude any hostage swap deal with the Israeli occupation before totally and finally stopping the aggression on Gaza", senior representative Osama Hamdan told Al Jazeera.

Israel's indiscriminate attack on Gaza has intensified and widened since the ceasefire came to end, with the death toll soaring since.

More than 18,000 people have been killed and nearly 50,000 injured in the Israeli attack on Gaza since 7 October, most of them women and children.

Israeli hostages held by Hamas are believed to have been killed in Israel's ferocious airstrikes, which have targeted schools, hospitals, and residential areas and levelled large parts of the Palestinian enclave, displacing over 1.9 million people. 

Israel is pressing for the Red Cross to go and see the hostages as it prepares for organisation head Mirjana Spoljaric Egger to visit the country later this week.

Hamas officials have dismissed this demand, with senior member Mohammed Mardawi telling Al Jazeera: "We refuse the Israeli request that the Red Cross visit the abductees in our hands."

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The war cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to do whatever it takes to secure the safe return of hostages. 

However, family members of the hostages have accused the Israeli government of not doing enough to ensure their relatives' safe return.

Qatar said last week it is continuing to press for hostage releases as part of a deal to stop the war.