Updated Mar 14, 2024 - World

Hamas delivers response on hostage deal proposal

 Israeli women raise placards bearing messages and the picture of Israeli hostages held by Hamas since October 7, 2023, as they protest outside the ministry of defence, callias, in Tel Aviv on February 1, ng for their release and negotiations for a deal between Israel and Ham2024.

Israeli women raise placards bearing messages and the picture of Israeli hostages held by Hamas since Oct. 7, as they call for their release during a February protest in Tel Aviv. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas gave Israel on Thursday through Qatari and Egyptian mediators its response regarding the hostage deal proposal, according to a statement by the group and two Israeli officials.

Why it matters: Israeli officials say Hamas' response to the U.S., Qatari and Egyptian proposal, which they have for weeks been waiting for, is a sign of progress and could allow moving to more serious negotiations on a detailed deal.

Catch up quick: The hostage deal being negotiated could lead to a six-week ceasefire in Gaza and include the release of about 40 Israeli hostages in return for about 400 Palestinian prisoners, including several dozen who killed Israelis.

  • The return of Palestinian civilians to northern Gaza is a top priority for Hamas in the negotiations and one of the main sticking points in the talks, according to sources with direct knowledge.

What they're saying: Hamas said in a statement it gave Egyptian and Qatari mediators a comprehensive proposal for a hostage deal that includes a ceasefire, release of prisoners, delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, return of displaced Palestinians to their homes and a withdrawal of Israeli forces from the enclave.

  • The Israeli prime minister's office said in a statement: "Hamas continues with its preposterous demands. The war cabinet will be updated tomorrow."

Driving the news: A senior Israeli official said Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani spoke on Thursday with the director of the Mossad spy agency and sent him the Hamas response.

  • A senior Israeli official said Hamas' response was relatively positive and included for the first time the number of prisoners that Hamas demands to be released for each of the categories of hostages who are to be freed in the first phase of the deal.
  • The Israeli official added that the number of prisoners that Hamas demands is still too high, but in a place where more serious negotiations can begin. "There is something to work with," said the Israeli official.

Behind the scenes: Senior Israeli officials claim that in recent days Israel received indications from the Qatari and Egyptian mediators that point to shifts among Hamas' leadership that may lead to progress.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Qatar and Egypt have significantly increased their pressure on Hamas, including threats from Qatar to expel senior Hamas officials from Doha and cut freeze Hamas bank accounts in Qatar.

What's next: The war cabinet is expected to meet on Friday to discuss Hamas' response and decide on next steps.

Flashback: Biden to hostage-ceasefire negotiators: Get me a deal

Editor's note: This article has been updated with further details of the hostage negotiations.

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