update deskIsrael at War

Qatar: End IDF offensive as part of Gaza hostage release deal

Under the proposal, Hamas leaders would leave for exile in an unnamed country.

Jews gaze at photos of Israelis held captive by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, Jan. 10, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
Jews gaze at photos of Israelis held captive by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, at the Western Wall Plaza in Jerusalem, Jan. 10, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

A new Qatari ceasefire proposal would see all hostages held by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip freed in exchange for a complete withdrawal of the Israel Defense Forces and safe passage for Hamas’s leadership out of the enclave.

The Israeli Security Cabinet will meet on Wednesday evening to discuss the proposal, under which Jerusalem would allow Hamas leaders to leave for exile in an unnamed country, Channel 13 News reported.

As part of the proposed agreement, the hostages would be freed in several stages, the report added.

Hamas still holds 136 captives, an unknown number of whom are believed to be dead. One hundred ten have been released, most in a hostages-for-ceasefire deal that the terrorist group violated on Nov. 28.

In a televised statement released on Jan. 2, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh warned that “enemy prisoners will not be released except under the resistance’s conditions.”

Hamas informed Qatari and Egyptian mediators it would only release hostages if Jerusalem agreed to a “complete cessation” of the IDF offensive in Gaza, Haniyeh said.

A high-level Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on Monday night to jump-start negotiations, which had hit a snag following last week’s assassination of Hamas deputy chief Saleh al-Arouri in Beirut in a strike attributed to Israel by Arabic-language media.

“The reports about a new deal that will be presented to the Cabinet tonight give some hope to the families who are anxious about the fate of their loved ones,” stated the Hostage and Missing Families Forum on Wednesday afternoon.

“We demand that the War Cabinet must not concern itself with anything other than the return of the hostages, we demand that they approve any deal that will lead to their immediate release alive!” added the statement.

Late last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the negotiations, which have mainly been conducted through Qatar and Egypt, as a “tug of war” with ups and downs, assuring families that the military pressure on Hamas was bearing fruit.

Earlier this week, Hebrew media reported that Jerusalem knows the exact location in Gaza of Hamas leader in the Strip Yahya Sinwar, who masterminded the Oct. 7 massacre of some 1,200 people in the northwestern Negev. Sinwar is believed to be hiding in the southern Hamas stronghold of Khan Yunis.

However, he has surrounded himself with a large number of living hostages, preventing the IDF from carrying out an airstrike on him, reports said.

Israel will “intensify and continue” its military operation in southern Gaza until the Hamas leadership is found and the hostages are returned to the Jewish state, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

“We are determined to complete the war goals and strengthen regional stability in the Middle East by dismantling Hamas in the south [in Gaza] and changing the security situation in the north [in the Upper Galilee, near Lebanon],” Gallant said following the meeting.

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