ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 144

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TV report claims start of effort to negotiate partial new hostage deal may be imminent

File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Mossad chief David Barnea at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
File: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with Mossad chief David Barnea at the IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv on October 15, 2023. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Channel 12 news quotes an anonymous senior Israeli source cautiously suggesting that the beginning of an effort to negotiate a partial new deal on hostage releases may be close at hand.

“The conditions are ripe for a framework in which it is possible to start to draft new agreements, from Hamas’s and Israel’s point of view,” the source is quoted as saying.

Such a deal would be designated as “humanitarian,” the report says, explaining that the “category” of hostages that such a deal might include would cover women, the injured, the sick, and the elderly. There are believed to be 15 non-military women among the hostages, and two children — Ariel Bibas, 5, and his baby brother Kfir.

The report says Mossad chief David Barnea and the IDF’s point person Nitzan Alon have been “directed to hear what the intermediaries are proposing,” but not to initiate proposals of their own. “If the Qataris want to be heard, we will listen,” the unnamed source says.

The assessment is that no new deal is anticipated in the next week, but Israel wants to open the window to a possible deal amid the mounting IDF military pressure on Hamas, so that if Yahya Sinwar proves ready, the terms will be in place — as was the case with the weeklong truce in late November.

Reported complicating factors include Hamas’s fraying command and control hierarchies, the fact that some Hamas leaders who were in Qatar have left, that some of the Hamas operatives who conveyed proposals between Qatar and Gaza have been killed, and that the IDF’s deployment on the ground in both northern and southern Gaza hampers Hamas’s communications within the Strip.

During the week-long truce, 105 civilians were released from Hamas captivity, in return for 240 women and underage Palestinian security prisoners: 81 Israelis, 23 Thai nationals and one Filipino. The IDF says 138 hostages are still being held by Hamas.

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