Under a proposal being discussed between the US, Israel and Qatar, Hamas would release 10 to 15 hostages during a three-day pause and verify the identities of its remaining captives, Axios reported on Tuesday. The group also would deliver a list of those hostages, the outlet added, citing an unidentified US official.
Biden and Netanyahu discussed the proposal during their telephone call on Monday, according to the report. While continuing to oppose a general ceasefire in the war with Hamas, US officials have repeatedly suggested in recent days that tactical pauses could be used to free hostages, get more humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip and enable more Palestinian civilians to evacuate the area where Israel’s incursion has been focused.
Netanyahu has stridently rejected the possibility of a ceasefire, saying calls for such a halt to the fighting are “calls for Israel to surrender to Hamas”. He has demanded that all of the approximately 240 hostages held by Hamas be released before any ceasefire is considered.
However, he told ABC News on Monday that short pauses would be possible to facilitate aid shipments and hostage releases.
“As far as tactical little pauses – an hour here, an hour there – we’ve had them before,” he stated, adding, “I suppose we’ll check the circumstances, in order to enable goods, humanitarian goods, to come in, or our hostages, individual hostages, to leave.”
Hamas fighters killed an estimated 1,400 people during surprise attacks against villages in southern Israel on October 7, and the group claimed to have taken enough hostages to secure the release of all Palestinians held in Israeli jails.
Four of the hostages, including two Americans, have been released, and Israeli troops rescued a soldier who had been captured by Hamas.
Netanyahu told Biden that he doesn’t trust Hamas and doesn’t believe the group is ready to agree to a hostage deal, Axios reported, citing unidentified US and Israeli officials.
He also suggested that Israel might lose international support for its incursion during a three-day pause. Netanyahu added that Hamas attacked Israeli soldiers and captured one of them during a humanitarian pause to its 2014 war with Tel Aviv.
A ceasefire would hinder efforts to free more hostages, Netanyahu told ABC, stating, “The only thing that works on these criminals in Hamas is the military pressure that we’re exerting.”
The White House has also sounded alarms over the possible “reoccupation” of Gaza by Israel, after Netanyahu indicated Israeli forces would handle “overall security responsibility” in the area following the conflict with Hamas.
Asked to weigh in on the long-term plans for Gaza during an interview with CNN on Tuesday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby urged Israel to reconsider a lengthy military deployment.
“The president still believes that a reoccupation of Gaza by Israeli forces is not good. It’s not good for Israel; not good for the Israeli people,” he said without elaborating.
“One of the conversations that Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken has been having in the region is what does post-conflict Gaza look like?” the spokesman continued, adding, “What does governance look like in Gaza? Because whatever it is it can’t be what it was on October 6. It can’t be Hamas.”
The warning comes just one day after told ABC News that Israel would have to take over the “security responsibility” in Gaza for an “indefinite period” after the current war with Hamas.
Though the PM did not share details about the plans for the enclave, his comments appear to contradict statements by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who previously stressed that Israeli troops must not be responsible for “day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip”.
Netanyahu adviser Mark Regev later told CNN that Israel is “not talking about any sort of ongoing occupation of the Gaza Strip”. While he explained there would be an Israeli “security presence” in the area, he stated “that doesn’t mean that Israel is there to govern the Gazans”.
The White House has vocally supported Israel’s military action in Gaza, but voiced skepticism over new occupation of the territory, with Biden saying the decision would be a “big mistake”. Asked who should govern the area at an earlier press briefing, Kirby added officials “don’t have all the answers to that”.