In a significant development, Israel and Hamas are reportedly on the verge of reaching a U.S., brokered deal aimed at freeing dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza. According to the Washington Post familiar with the emerging terms, the deal involves a five-day pause in fighting, which could mark the first sustained period of calm in the conflict-ridden region.
The detailed six-page set of written terms outlines a temporary freeze on combat operations by all parties for at least five days. During this period, an initial 50 or more hostages are expected to be released in smaller batches every 24 hours, with overhead surveillance monitoring ground movement to enforce the pause. The deal also aims to facilitate a significant increase in humanitarian assistance, including fuel, to enter Gaza from Egypt.
The outline of the deal was constructed during weeks of talks in Doha, Qatar, with indirect representation from Qatari mediators. While the release of hostages could begin within the next several days, the exact number among the 239 believed to be in captivity in Gaza remains unclear.
The decision to accept the deal presents a difficult choice for Israel, as domestic pressure mounts on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government. While there is strong demand to bring the hostages home, there are opposing voices urging the government not to negotiate for their release.
Israeli National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi indicated that any limited cease-fire would be contingent on a substantial release of hostages, and the offensive would continue thereafter to achieve war goals.
Thousands of hostage family members and supporters recently marched from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, demanding government action.
The Biden administration, initially hesitant, has fully backed a temporary pause in the fighting, emphasizing the need to free the nine Americans and one permanent U.S. resident among the hostages. President Biden, during a recent news conference, highlighted the administration's highest priority of securing a pause long enough for the hostages' release.
Negotiations for the hostage release plan have been described as "intensive and ongoing," with Brett McGurk,White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, stating that a large-scale release would result in a significant pause in fighting and a surge of humanitarian relief.
The situation remains volatile, with conflicting reports on the status of the deal. A National Security Council spokesperson emphasized that there is "no deal yet," but efforts are ongoing to reach an agreement. The international community closely watches as the delicate negotiations unfold, holding hopes for a temporary reprieve and improved humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
Source: The Washington Post