Qatar and Egypt are negotiating the possible release of a number of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a “humanitarian pause” of fighting in the Palestinian enclave, according to two reports published on Wednesday.
Negotiations led by Qatar, in coordination with the United States, are focused on the release of 10 to 15 hostages in exchange for a short pause of the IDF operation, a source briefed on the negotiations told Reuters.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s state-owned Al-Akhbar daily claimed that Cairo was close to reaching a deal for an “exchange” of hostages in return for a temporary truce.
The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined comment, while a source in the Prime Minister’s Office told JNS that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is not commenting on the sensitive issue of hostage negotiations.”
On Sunday, Netanyahu said that Israel will not agree to any ceasefire with Hamas unless the terrorist group releases the approximately 240 hostages it kidnapped during its Oct. 7 attacks.
Along with Israeli citizens, this figure includes at least 120 foreign nationals.
“There will be no ceasefire without the return of the hostages. This should be completely removed from the lexicon,” said Netanyahu following a tour of Ramon Air Force Base in the Negev Desert.
Hamas propaganda chief Abu Obeida on Wednesday night released a statement saying the “only path is a complete or partial prisoner exchange deal,” according to Lebanese media.
Earlier on Wednesday, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte held talks with Qatari leaders in Doha. Rutte “spoke about the hostages, who have been held by the terrorist organization Hamas for weeks now,” he wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).
“They must be released as soon as possible and reunited with their loved ones,” Rutte added. “The Netherlands is very grateful to Qatar for its efforts to make this possible.”
Rutte, who plans to leave domestic politics after the Dutch election later this month, was expected to arrive in Israel later on Wednesday.