Apr 27, 2024 - World

Israel open to discussing "sustainable calm" in Gaza after initial hostage release: officials

 Israeli Army's armored vehicles and tanks move in and out of Gaza on April 25, 2024, Sderot, Israel. (Photo by Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Israeli Army's armored vehicles and tanks move in and out of Gaza on Ap. 25, 2024, Sderot, Israel. Photo: Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu via Getty Images

A new Israeli proposal for a possible hostage deal with Hamas includes a willingness to discuss the "restoration of sustainable calm" in Gaza after an initial release of hostages on humanitarian grounds, two Israeli officials told Axios.

Why it matters: It is the first time since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas that Israeli leaders have suggested they are open to discussing an end to the war in Gaza as part of a hostage deal.

Driving the news: A delegation of Egyptian intelligence officials arrived in Israel on Friday and conducted talks with representatives of the Shin Bet, Israel Defense Forces and Mossad about the hostage deal and a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah.

  • At the end of the talks between the Israeli negotiations team and the Egyptian intelligence officials, the Egyptians forwarded to Hamas a new proposal that included Israel's willingness to make further significant concessions, the Israeli officials said.
  • Hamas said in a statement on Friday night that received the new proposal, will study it and respond.

Behind the scenes: The Israeli officials said the new proposal was formulated jointly by the Egyptian intelligence delegation and the Israeli negotiations team, taking into account the positions Hamas has presented so far and what Israel and Egypt think the group might agree to in a deal.

  • The new proposal includes a response to many of Hamas' demands, such as a willingness for full return of displaced Palestinians to their homes in northern Gaza and the withdrawal of the IDF from the corridor that divides the enclave and prevents freedom of movement, the officials said.
  • The proposal also includes a willingness to discuss the establishment of a sustainable ceasefire as part of the implementation of the second phase of the deal, which would take place after the release of hostages on humanitarian grounds.

What they're saying: "We hope that what we have proposed is enough to bring Hamas into serious negotiations. We hope Hamas sees we are serious about reaching a deal — and we are serious," an Israeli official said.

  • "They should understand that it is possible that if the first stage is implemented, it will be possible to advance to the next stages and reach the end of the war."
  • The Israeli official noted that Israel believes Hamas perceives the threat of an Israeli invasion of Rafah as a credible threat, and that this may help the two sides reach a deal. He added that Israel is serious about an operation in Rafah.

Zoom in: The hostage talks between Israel and Hamas have been at a deadlock for a few weeks with significant gaps between the parties.

  • In recent days, the Israeli war cabinet decided to change its position regarding the number of hostages Israel demands that Hamas releases as part of a deal.
  • The proposal that was on the table involved the release of 40 hostages in return for six weeks of ceasefire and the release of roughly 900 Palestinian prisoners.
  • The 40 hostages included women, female soldiers, men over the age of 50 and male hostages in poor medical condition who would be released on humanitarian grounds.
  • But Hamas claimed in recent weeks there are only about 20 hostages that fit this humanitarian criteria.
  • Israeli officials said the Israeli war cabinet authorized the Israeli negotiations team for the first time this week to discuss the release of less than 40 hostages.
  • The number of days of the ceasefire will be linked to the number of hostages who will be released — one day for each hostage.

What to watch: Israel expects to receive an answer from Hamas in the next few days and officials said they hope it will lead to the opening of intensive negotiations on the details, especially the number of hostages that will be released in the humanitarian phase and the number of Palestinian prisoners that will be released in exchange.

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