Israel-Hamas, hostage negotiations: agreement never so close

It is about the release of at least 50 women and children kidnapped on October 7

The negotiation on hostages in the hands of Hamas is being defined around a proposal liberation of at least 50 women and children, but the road to the white smoke is not yet completely traced. Israel’s war cabinet discussed this again in a meeting last night. And one of the main unknowns is Yahia Sinwar, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Last week, when the Israeli army entered Shifa hospital in Gaza, Sinwar cut contact with Qatari mediators for several days, but apparently resumed them. Both Israelis and Americans believe he will have the final say on the Palestinian side, not the Hamas leadership abroad. The Israelis, writes Haaretz, believe that Sinwar is still “elated” by the success of the October 7 massacre and for this reason continues to maintain a very tough negotiating position, ignoring the suffering of the Gaza population.

But precisely because of Sinwar, considered less rational than the Lebanese Hezbollah, some argue that Israel should seize every opportunity for an agreement, in order to free as many people as possible as soon as possible. In fact, there is always the risk that the war will intensify and Sinwar will end all negotiations. Others, such as Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Chief of Staff Herzl Halevi believe that maintaining military pressure on Hamas also serves to increase the chances of a hostage deal.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Israel does not want to release Palestinian prisoners in exchange for hostages. The possible agreement being discussed, CNN reports, includes pauses in the fighting of 4-5 days in exchange for an initial release of around fifty hostages, with the possibility that other pauses will be followed by further releases of 20-25 people.

“We think we are closer to an agreement than we have ever been,” US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer told CNN. There is also discussion about sending aid trucks. Hamas reportedly asked for 500 a day. But sources close to the negotiations report that it is difficult to send more than 200 a day for logistical reasons. And there are unresolved issues regarding truck inspections, entry crossings and assurances that the aid goes to civilians and not to Hamas. In this regard, Hamas would have rejected the idea of ​​drone control over the truck routes.

Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Michael Herzog, brother of President Isaac Herzog, also appears cautiously optimistic. “I hope” there will be an agreement “in the next few days, he told ABC news. “We are ready for a pause (in the fighting), in exchange for a significant number of hostages,” he said.

Around 240 people were taken hostage by Hamas on 7 October. Among them were also very young children, elderly people, and a woman who apparently gave birth in captivity. There are also Israeli Arabs, as well as Nepalese and Thai workers, two of whom appeared injured yesterday in a video from the surveillance cameras of Shifa hospital. Four female hostages were released twice, one was freed by the Israeli military and unfortunately only the body of two others was found by the soldiers. One of the problems, the Wall Street Journal reports, is that Hamas does not know all the locations where the hostages are being held.