Hamas, Israel close to settlement on hostage release, awaiting Israeli confirmation

Hamas and Israel are getting close to a settlement on the hostages’ release, subject to Israeli confirmation, according to a report by ANI. Qatari mediators on November 15 attempted to negotiate a deal between Hamas and Israel that involved the release of around 50 civilian hostages from Gaza in return for a three-day ceasefire, an official briefed on the discussions told Reuters.

A significant amount of attention has been paid to these negotiations by top US officials, including President Joe Biden, who expressed cautious optimism following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

According to The Washington Post, Joe Biden has been very involved in the negotiations, stating that military involvement is not being considered, and his efforts are aimed at facilitating the release of hostages and achieving a substantial pause in hostilities.

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“I am mildly hopeful,” President Biden said. In response to a question, he said he was not considering any US military involvement in rescuing the captives. Instead, Biden said he was “working on how I can be helpful in getting the hostages released and have a period of time where there’s a pause long enough to let that happen.”

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It has been cautioned by those familiar with the talks that the current arrangement is delicate and may fall apart, reflecting challenges in past negotiations. Similar parameters have been outlined in previous proposals, but the number of hostages involved and their release conditions vary. A Washington Post report quoted an anonymous Arab diplomat as saying that the current outline is only agreed upon “in general terms.”

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Israelis are eagerly anticipating a response, with expectations that a positive response will lead to swift action, and a rejection will force a return to negotiations. It is hoped that an agreement on some aspects of the hostage release could pave the way for broader discussions about the release of all captives.

There have been no comments from Israeli officials on the potential hostage deal, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Speaking from a military post in southern Israel, Netanyahu said, “I’ve been talking to the people involved every day… I believe it’s going to happen.”

Hamas’ attack on Gaza on October 7, which resulted in substantial casualties, has caused the situation in Gaza to become increasingly complex. Israel, the United States, and Hamas do not directly communicate, with negotiations taking place indirectly in Doha, Qatar. The Washington Post reported that indirect talks between CIA Director William J Burns, Mossad Director David Barnea, and Hamas’ political leaders in Doha led to progress despite challenges.

A resolution calling for an urgent humanitarian pause in Gaza, as well as the release of all hostages, was approved by the UN Security Council in response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza. It has been difficult for outside observers to understand the situation in Gaza due to a lack of media access, with reports suggesting a severe humanitarian crisis has resulted from the conflict.

Concerns have also been raised about potential civilian casualties as al-Shifa Hospital is being enclosed, Gaza’s largest medical facility. It appears that Hamas has difficulties locating and controlling all hostages, including those held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

It remains fluid, with the potential for developments in the coming days, as President Biden and US officials work to secure a significant pause in hostilities.

(With Inputs from ANI)

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Updated: 17 Nov 2023, 12:32 PM IST

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