After logjam, diplomat reports progress in hostage talks as Qatar leans hard on Hamas

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Activists protest calling for a hostage deal, in Tel Aviv, March 10, 2024 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Activists protest calling for a hostage deal, in Tel Aviv, March 10, 2024 (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Qatari and Egyptian mediators believe significant progress has been made this week toward securing a truce between Israel and Hamas after an extended period of deadlock in the talks, a senior Arab diplomat tells The Times of Israel.

The progress was made following significant pressure placed by Doha on Hamas, warning the terror group that its leaders residing in Qatar would be kicked out of the country if they didn’t adapt their approach in the negotiations.

A senior Hamas official told Al Arabiya earlier today that the group had accepted a modified version of the latest US proposal, which was based on a framework accepted by Israel during a meeting in Paris last month. Hamas later issued a statement denying the report.

The three-phase deal would see roughly 40 female, elderly and wounded hostages released during the initial six-week phase; soldiers released during a second phase; and the bodies of hostages released in a third phase, the Arab diplomat says.

During the latter phases, the sides would hold talks on a more permanent ceasefire, the diplomat says.

In the first phase, mediators are seeking to coax Hamas into agreeing to a 10:1 ratio of security prisoners released by Israel for every hostage, according to the diplomat, who says that the terror group had been pushing for an even more lopsided split, but appears to have come down from those earlier demands.

While Israel agreed to an original framework in Paris off which the current proposal under discussion is based, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet — along with Hamas — will still have to sign off on the final offer, and the Arab diplomat says it’s unclear whether that will happen.

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