update deskIsrael at War

Israel agrees to free 800 Palestinian security prisoners for 40 hostages

The number includes 100 serving life sentences for murdering Israelis. Hamas has yet to respond.

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2024. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.
Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip, outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, March 23, 2024. Photo by Erik Marmor/Flash90.

As part of truce talks taking place in Doha, Qatar, Israeli officials have agreed to release between 700 to 800 Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for 40 Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, according to various media reports.

The inmates include 100 serving life sentences for murdering Israelis, Axios journalist Barak Ravid reported on Sunday, citing two Israeli officials.

Ravid reported that the number stands at 700, while an Israeli official briefed on the Doha talks told Reuters the figure could reach as high as 800.

Hamas has reportedly demanded the release of 700 to 1,000 prisoners as part of any deal. An Israeli official told Ravid that the 700 figure is the same as a Qatari proposal from a few weeks ago, but that the number of prisoners serving life sentences is lower.

The proposed exchange would take place over the course of a six-week ceasefire, which the United States and other international players seek to turn into a permanent truce. However, Jerusalem is determined to end the war only after Hamas is defeated, including via a military invasion of Rafah city, the terror group’s last bastion in Gaza in the southernmost part of the Strip.

For its part, Hamas is demanding an end to the war and the complete withdrawal of all Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.

There are 134 Israeli hostages still being held by Hamas in Gaza out of 253 taken during the terror group’s Oct. 7 invasion of southern Israel. Some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed during the attack, and thousands more were wounded.

An Israeli delegation led by Mossad director David Barnea was in Doha over the weekend for another round of negotiations on a ceasefire agreement.

Mossad Director David Barnea speaks at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism’s World Summit on Counter-Terrorism at Herzliya’s Reichman University, Sept. 10, 2023. Photo by Yossi Zeliger/TPS.

Burns is expected to meet this week with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Washington. Gallant departed for the United States on Sunday and is also scheduled to meet at the Pentagon with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other senior American officials.

The 800 number is around double that included in the original framework for a deal forged in talks in Paris earlier this year. At that time, the mediators proposed the release of 400 prisoners with 25 serving life sentences.

According to Ravid’s reporting, Israel became more flexible with the number of prisoners based on mediation by CIA director William Burns, and Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

Israeli officials also have expressed a willingness to consider the return of more than 2,000 Gazans per day to the northern Gaza Strip after the hostages start to be released.

According to Hebrew media reports, Israel has also tentatively accepted a preliminary agreement brokered by the Americans to return female IDF soldiers.

Reports indicate that Jerusalem is willing to move forward with part of a broader agreement being hashed out that would include the release of five female IDF soldiers in exchange for 25 Palestinian terrorists held in Israeli prisons (five terrorists for each soldier).

However, sources told Kan News on Sunday morning that they doubt that Hamas will accept the proposal. The terrorist group wants many more Palestinian security prisoners released.

According to the Axios report, senior Israeli officials are waiting for an answer from Hamas to the latest proposal, which could take a couple of days. It was earlier reported that the Hamas delegation in Qatar must get final approval for any part of a deal from the Gaza-based leadership, which delays the negotiation process.

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