update deskIsrael at War

Israel mulls response to ‘non-starter’ Hamas truce proposal

Israeli officials reject the terror group's demands to end the war and free terrorists, but say the proposal is being "studied in depth" and that "we still aren't losing hope."

Families of Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.
Families of Israelis held by Hamas terrorists in Gaza protest outside the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv, Feb. 6, 2024. Photo by Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90.

The Israeli government will discuss on Wednesday the country’s official response to a draft ceasefire proposal from Hamas that Israeli officials have called a “non-starter.”

The Hamas draft document, submitted on Tuesday in response to a proposal negotiated last month in Paris, would see the phased release of the remaining 136 captives being held by the terror group, 31 of whom are dead, according to Israel. Another 20 hostages may also be deceased, according to an internal Israeli report seen by The New York Times.

One hundred five hostages, mostly women and children, were released in November as part of a ceasefire deal that Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of captives. Four hostages had been previously released by the terrorist group, and one was freed by Israeli forces in Gaza.

Hamas took 253 hostages during its Oct. 7 massacre, in addition to murdering some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and wounding thousands more.

Hamas’s proposal consists of a three-stage process spanning 4.5 months. In the first stage, the terror group would release all women hostages, as well as all those under 19, the elderly and the sick. In exchange, Israel would release women and minor security prisoners.

The second stage would see the release of the remaining male hostages, with bodies being released in the third stage, at the end of which an agreement will be reached to end the war. Negotiations towards ending the war will start in the first phase, according to the proposal.

In the draft, the terror group also expresses “hope” for the release of 1,500 terrorists, a third of them “heavy” prisoners with life sentences.

The terrorist group is also demanding a total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the start of the Strip’s rehabilitation and an increase in humanitarian aid.

Israeli officials said Hamas’s demand for a permanent end to the war makes the proposal a “non-starter.”

The release of 1,500 prisoners, including terrorists with blood on their hands, is also out of the question, said the officials.

“We will have to check whether this is an opening position for negotiations—but as it is formulated we will not be able to accept it,” the officials said.

However, according to one of the sources, while aspects of the proposal are “problematic,” the draft is being “studied in depth” by both the Mossad and the Israel Defense Forces. “We still aren’t losing hope,” said one of the sources.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who arrived in Israel on Tuesday night, said the Biden administration was reviewing Hamas’s response and stressed it was “essential” to go ahead.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done. But we continue to believe that an agreement is possible and indeed essential, and we will continue to work relentlessly to achieve it,” Blinken stated following meetings in Doha.

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