Saturday, December 2, 2023

Hamas, Israel in talks on release of hostages: Report

Palestinian group Hamas and Israel are negotiating two proposals for the release of captives in the Gaza Strip with one said to involve a small number of civilians and another that could involve some 100 of those being held, The New York Times has reported.

“Under one proposal being discussed, Hamas would release 10 to 20 civilian hostages – Israeli women and children as well as foreigners, including Americans – in exchange for a brief pause in hostilities,” the daily reports, citing unnamed Israeli officials and others briefed on the talks.

“That could be followed by a larger release of about 100 civilians if terms are met,” it says.

In return for the release of captives, Hamas is said to be seeking a brief pause in fighting, more humanitarian aid, fuel for hospitals and the release of women and children in Israeli prisons, an official told the newspaper, adding that the Israeli authorities had expressed uncertainty about releasing their prisoners.

Qatar has been the main mediator in the negotiations, and senior US officials are also involved, according to the report.

More than 240 people, including Israeli soldiers and civilians, as well as foreigners from numerous countries, were taken captive by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups during a deadly assault on Israel on October 7 that Israeli authorities say killed more than 1,500 people.

Five hostages have been released thus far, most of them following negotiations through diplomatic channels with assistance from countries including Qatar and Egypt, and one after a ground incursion by Israeli soldiers inside Gaza.

The Palestinian group Hamas has announced it is ready to conclude a deal on swapping prisoners with the Israeli side.

Hamas Spokesman Hazem Kasem has recently told Al Jazeera the movement is ready to release all the prisoners held by it in exchange to all those held by Israel.

There are 19 prisons within Israel and one inside the occupied West Bank that hold thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

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