Jan 1, 2024 - World

Hamas sent Israel hostage deal proposal, but two sides still far apart, sources say

Relatives and supporters hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza

Relatives and supporters in Tel Aviv hold placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas through Qatari and Egyptian mediators gave Israel on Sunday a proposal for a new hostage deal, according to two Israeli officials and one source with knowledge of the proposal.

Why it matters: Israel rejected the proposal, but one of the Israeli officials said the offer shows Hamas is now ready to engage in negotiations on a new hostage deal, even as the fighting in Gaza continues. Hamas has said Israel must end the war before the group would negotiate a new hostage deal.

Behind the scenes: The proposal included a three-phase process. Each phase would include a pause in fighting for more than a month in exchange for the release of hostages, one of the Israeli officials said.

  • Under the proposal, Israel would begin pulling its forces out of Gaza during the implementation of the first phase of the deal, which would include the release of roughly 40 hostages, the official said. Some Palestinian prisoners would also likely be released.
  • The proposal would also end the war following the implementation of the last phase of the agreement, which would include the release of soldiers who are being held hostage in Gaza, per the official.

What they're saying: The Israeli war cabinet discussed the new Hamas proposal and told the Qatari and Egyptian mediators on Monday that it is unacceptable, the Israeli official said.

  • "The proposal we received from Hamas on Sunday was totally off base and we asked the mediators to try and produce a more acceptable proposal. They are working on it and let's see what happens," the official said.
  • "We are in the pre-beginning of the talks. The negotiations are not stuck anymore but they are also not making significant progress yet."

The big picture: Egypt last month proposed relaunching talks on a three-phase deal that would eventually see the release of all the hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians detained in Israeli prisons.

  • Under the Egyptian proposal, the third phase would include the ending of the war, the Israeli pullout from Gaza and the establishment of a technocratic government in the enclave that would not be affiliated with Hamas and would get the support of the U.S., Egypt and Qatar.
  • A Hamas delegation has been in Cairo in recent days to discuss the proposal.
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