Home west asia Hamas Accepts US Proposal For Talks On Releasing Israeli Hostages

Hamas Accepts US Proposal For Talks On Releasing Israeli Hostages

Israel, Gaza, Hamas compund, Airstrike
FILE PHOTO: Hamas' top leader, Ismail Haniyeh. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Hamas has accepted a U.S. proposal to begin talks on releasing Israeli hostages, including soldiers and men, 16 days after the first phase of an agreement aimed at ending the Gaza war, a senior Hamas source said on Saturday.

Hamas, the militant Islamist group has dropped a demand that Israel first commit to a permanent ceasefire before signing the agreement, and would allow negotiations to achieve that throughout a first six-week phase, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

A Palestinian official close to the internationally mediated peace efforts had said the proposal could lead to a framework agreement if embraced by Israel and would end the nine-month-old war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The conflict has claimed the lives of more than 38,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health officials. The war erupted after Hamas attacked southern Israeli cities on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostages.

The Hamas source said the proposal ensures that mediators would guarantee a temporary ceasefire, aid delivery and withdrawal of Israeli troops as long as indirect talks continue to implement the second phase of the agreement.

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Hamas is willing to accept a gradual Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but it is insisting that all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody, must be released in exchange for Israeli hostages. The release could happen in a three-phased plan.

Hamas said its leader Ismail Haniyeh is in touch with Egyptian and Qatari mediators to ensure negotiations remain on track and are completed at the earliest.

Israel is sending Mossad spy agency chief David Barnea at the head of a delegation to Qatar for talks.  Prime Minister Netanyahu has also updated US President Joe Biden in a conversation over the phone.

But he has stressed that “War will end only after achieving all goals and not one moment earlier.”

(With Inputs From Reuters)