As talks stall, hopes dim for hostage release deal, truce before Ramadan — report

Hopes are dimming that an agreement to release hostages taken by Hamas on October 7 and secure a temporary truce to pause the fighting in Gaza can be reached before the start of Ramadan next week, the New York Times reports citing US and Mideast officials.

The US has been pushing hard for an agreement before the Muslim fasting month begins on March 10 and has called on Hamas to accept the terms of a framework worked out in Paris last month that would put in place a six-week pause in fighting and a release of some 40 hostages in an initial phase in exchange for Palestinian security prisoners.

As talks appear to stall given Hamas’s insistent demands for a permanent ceasefire, those hopes have diminished, officials tell the New York Times.

Officials briefed on the talks say Hamas has “backed away” from the proposed agreement in Paris and in addition to a permanent ceasefire, also demands the withdrawal of troops from the Gaza Strip, the return of displaced Gazans to their homes in the north, and “provisions for the needs of our people.”

One regional official tells the publication that the main sticking point is the demand for a permanent ceasefire during or after the three phases of the hostage releases proposed in Paris, which Israel has refused.

Talks have moved from Doha to Cairo in recent days as the negotiations appear to flounder, according to the report. Israel has not sent a delegation to the talks since Hamas has refused to provide a list of living hostages to secure the deal. The US has backed Israel’s position and has said the request is legitimate.

According to the report, the officials believe Hamas has issued new demands for a variety of reasons including a belief that drawing out the fighting into Ramadan will weaken Israel. The terror group has called for a march on the flashpoint Temple Mount site in Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month, in moves the Israelis believe are designed to stir up violence.

“Hamas, according to people briefed on the talks, believes an action at the mosque will show its strength despite the monthslong Israeli military campaign in Gaza and could increase pressure on Mr. Netanyahu to end the fighting,” the report reads.

An incident last week in which dozens of Gazans were killed rushing an aid convoy and which drew international condemnation against Israel, including from the US, has also emboldened Hamas and its position in the talks, some officials believe, according to the report.

Most Popular