Report claims Hamas could agree to release some hostages before permanent ceasefire

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper reports that Hamas is willing to consider a hostage release deal in which troops would gradually retreat from the Strip and Israel eventually agree to an end to the fighting, along with complete access to the north for all displaced Gazans, and what the paper calls a “proportionate” release of Palestinian prisoners.

The paper, quoting “sources involved in the ongoing negotiations,” says Hamas has told Qatar and Egypt that it is not interested in any further discussion unless its conditions are met, claiming this is the same stance it presented in the last round of talks.

“Arab and international parties will not succeed in amending the position,” a source tells Al-Akhbar.

Nonetheless, the reported stance does appear to open the door for the possibility of Israel getting some hostages out without first committing to a permanent end to the war or withdrawing all troops, which Hamas had previously insisted on.

According to the sources, Hamas is willing to eventually release all captives, including soldiers and remains, over three 42-day stages.

The first stage would see troops, who are only deployed in a corridor through central Gaza, move away from Al-Rashid Road on the coast toward the eastern side of the Strip, allowing unfettered movement to the north. Aerial activity would cease, meaning an end to Israeli airstrikes or reconnaissance missions over the enclave.

During this stage, Hamas would release all civilian women, children, elderly and sick hostages, in exchange for Palestinian women, minors, elderly and infirm prisoners, at a rate of 30 inmates for every Israeli.

Hamas would then release female soldiers, at a price of 50 Palestinians, including 30 serving life sentences and 20 others chosen by Hamas, per soldier.

Israel would also have to release all 48 prisoners from the Gilad Shalit deal who were rearrested.

The second stage would see the release of male soldiers and male hostages in exchange for prisoners. The stage would only commence once Israel commits to a permanent ceasefire and all troops withdraw from Gaza.

The third stage would include the exchange of bodies and the comprehensive reconstruction of Gaza, as well as an end to Israel’s blockade on the Strip.

The agreement would also see Israel allow 600 aid trucks to enter Gaza daily from the start, including 50 filled with fuel; 300 of the trucks would be earmarked for northern Gaza. Heavy machinery for clearing rubble would also need to be allowed in from the first stage.

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