The new proposal includes a 90-day phased plan that paves the way for an end to the deadly war in Gaza.
Qatar, the United States and Egypt are reportedly pushing for a deal involving the captives’ release from Hamas and a halt to the war in Gaza, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejects ceasefire demands again, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing diplomats involved in the mediations.
The new proposal includes a 90-day phased plan that paves the way for an end to the deadly war in Gaza, where Israel has killed more than 25,000 Palestinians, of which 70% are women and children.
The plan’s first phase entailed an unspecified pause in the war to release Israeli civilian captives in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisons, the WSJ reported.
The same period would see Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza while ending its drone surveillance and allowing the freedom of movement for Palestinians. The amount of aid for Gaza would also double in the same phase.
The second phase involves releasing female Israeli soldiers and their bodies in exchange for the release of more Palestinians. The third phase would then include releasing Israeli soldiers and what the WSJ described as “fighting-age men” while Israel redeploys some of its forces at the Gaza Strip’s borders.
Egyptian officials noted that Israeli negotiators are pushing for a two-week truce for the release of more than 100 captives still being held by Hamas while refusing a permanent ceasefire.
They added that the proposal entailed an international fund for the reconstruction of Gaza and safety guarantees for Hamas political leaders, Egyptian officials said.
While the reported plan signalled a breakthrough in the talks’ apparent stalemate, Taher Al-Nono, a media adviser to Hamas, said that “there was no real progress.”
Netanyahu said on Sunday, after the WSJ published their report, that he rejected Hamas’s demands as they involved a ceasefire — a demand that Israel has long rejected since the start of the war.
“If we agree to this, then our warriors fell in vain. If we agree to this, we won’t be able to ensure the security of our citizens,” Netanyahu said in a statement Sunday, despite sources saying the plan would involve the normalisation of ties between Israel and Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Qatar — the host of a Hamas political bureau — and Egypt had mediated a temporary truce that lasted between November 24 and December 1.
The pause saw the release of at least 110 Israeli and foreign captives from Gaza as well as 240 Palestinian women and children from Israeli prisons. Talks have then appeared to stall as Israel intensified its genocidal war in Gaza and after the killing of top Hamas official, Saleh Al-Arouri in Lebanon, last month.
A Qatari official told WSJ that the Gulf state “continues to communicate with all parties with the objective of mediating an immediate end to the bloodshed, protecting the lives of innocent civilians, securing the release of hostages, and facilitating the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza.”
Cairo is reportedly hosting negotiators “in coming days,” after Israeli officials presented a proposal on the captives’ release that did not include a ceasefire. Egyptian officials told the WSJ that Cairo’s intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, had accused Israel’s negotiating team “of not being serious about the talks.”
On the other hand, Hamas military chief Yahya Sinwar demanded a longer truce than the previous one.
Hamas officials also told Qatari and Egyptian officials that the truce “was unsatisfactory” given that the released Palestinian prisoners have been detained later and less aid than promised entered Gaza.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Joe Biden’s senior Middle East adviser Brett McGurk is reportedly returning to Qatar this week for talks aimed at releasing the remaining captives from Hamas, three sources privy to the matter told Axios on Sunday.
He is scheduled to meet Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha, though Qatari officials have yet to publicly confirm the reports.
Washington’s National Security spokesperson John Kirby had revealed on January 16 that McGurk was in Doha for “very serious” negotiations on another captive release deal.
“What I can tell you is that we’re working on this very, very diligently. That is why Brett was in Doha this past week. I don’t want to get ahead of where we are, but we are having, I would say, very serious and intensive discussions in Qatar about the possibility of another deal,” Kirby said at the time.