Jan 22, 2024 - World

Scoop: Israel proposes 2-month fighting pause in Gaza for release of all hostages

Protestors hold up portraits during a rally organised by family and supporters of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since the October 7 attacks by Hamas in southern Israel, to demand their release, on January 22, 2024

Protestors in Jerusalem hold up portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza at a rally on Jan. 22, 2024 to demand their release. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Israel has given Hamas a proposal through Qatari and Egyptian mediators that includes up to two months of a pause in the fighting as part of a multi-phase deal that would include the release of all remaining hostages held in Gaza, two Israeli officials said.

Why it matters: While the proposal doesn't include an agreement to end the fighting, it is the longest period of ceasefire that Israel has offered Hamas since the start of the war.

Driving the news: More than 130 hostages are still being held in Gaza. Israeli officials say several dozen hostages either died on Oct. 7 or in the weeks since then.

  • President Biden's adviser Brett McGurk traveled to Egypt on Sunday and will continue to Qatar afterward for talks aimed at making progress in the negotiations to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas.
  • Qatari and Egyptian mediators have been trying for weeks to bridge the gaps between the parties in order to make progress towards a deal.
  • U.S. officials told Axios that reaching such an agreement might be the only path that could lead to a ceasefire in Gaza.

Behind the scenes: Two Israeli officials said the Israeli war cabinet approved 10 days ago the parameters of a new proposal for a hostage deal, which are different from past aspects of deals rejected by Hamas and more forward-leaning than previous Israeli proposals.

  • Israeli officials said they are waiting for a response from Hamas but stressed they are cautiously optimistic about the ability to make progress in the coming days.
  • According to the proposal, the deal would include the release of all remaining hostages who are alive and the return of the bodies of dead hostages in several phases. The first phase would see the release of women, men over the age of 60 years old and hostages who are in critical medical condition, the officials said.
  • The next phases would include the release of female soldiers, men under the age of 60 years old who are not soldiers, Israeli male soldiers and the bodies of hostages.

Details: The officials said Israel proposed the overall period of pause for the completion of the release of all hostages in the different phases could reach up to two months.

  • Under the proposed deal, Israel and Hamas would agree in advance on how many Palestinian prisoners would be released for each Israeli hostage in each category and then separate negotiations on the names of these prisoners would take place, the officials said.
  • The Israeli officials said the proposal includes Israel redeploying Israeli Defense Forces so that some would be moved out of main population centers in the enclave and allowing a gradual return of Palestinian civilians to Gaza City and the northern Gaza Strip as the deal is being implemented.
  • The Israeli officials said the proposal makes clear Israel will not agree to end the war and will not agree to release all of the estimated 6,000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

What they're saying: White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that President Biden supports a pause in the fighting that would enable the release of hostages and the entry of more humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Between the lines: Israeli officials said they are ready to release a significant number of Palestinian prisoners if Hamas agrees to the offer.

  • They admit if the deal is implemented, IDF operations in Gaza would be significantly smaller in scope and intensity after the two-month pause in fighting.
Go deeper