Israel accepts US hostage swap compromise, awaits Hamas response

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The Israeli delegation in Qatar has agreed to an American compromise on the issue of the number of Palestinian prisoners who will be swapped for each Israeli hostage and await a response from Hamas, Israeli media reported Saturday night.

According to the reports, there were originally major disagreements about this number, prompting the American compromise proposal.

The Israeli team in Qatar has been authorized to discuss the return of Palestinians to northern Gaza, according to N12, who also reported that a Hamas response will likely take a few days to receive due to the logistics of getting approval from Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Mossad Chief David Barnea flew to Qatar Friday to meet CIA director William Burns, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed Al-Thani, and Egyptian Intelligence Minister Abbas Kamal to discuss a hostage deal that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he believes is possible to agree on, although there is “still difficult work to get there.”

N12 reported that Senior Hamas officials, such as Ismail Haniyeh, were also present for the talks in Qatar.

People carry placards during a protest calling for the immediate release of hostages held in Gaza who were seized from southern Israel on October 7 by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas gunmen during a deadly attack, at a square in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 11, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD)

Qatari-based news network Al-Jazeera published an exclusive report on Saturday claiming some conditions agreed upon during the compromise.

The report claimed that Israel has agreed to let 2,000 Gazans return to the north of the Gaza Strip, starting two weeks after the agreement is signed. The report also stated that Israel had denied Hamas’s request to release 30 prisoners for every female soldier and countered with an offer to release five prisoners for every female soldier.

Additionally, Al-Jazeera reported that Israel had requested the release of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul.

Importantly, no Israeli official has confirmed any of the claims made in this report.

“The Israeli team that is present [in Doha] has the authority to reach an agreement,” Blinken told Al Arabiya English in a video interview on Thursday amid reports that the delegation had been put under constraints.

Blinken urged Israel’s Cabinet on Friday to find a solution to the issue of Gazan leadership after Hamas said that “even after operations in Rafah, the challenge of Hamas will remain, the anarchy and chaos will regrow it, if there is no alternative leadership,” Channel 13’s Moriah Asraf Wolberg reported.

In Washington on Friday, US National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby said he thought the two sides were getting closer to a deal.

The fact that the discussions are still happening – and happening at the pace at which they are and with participation on all sides – is a good sign, Kirby said. 

“Nothing’s negotiated till it’s all negotiated,” Kirby said, “but we’re but we do believe that the gaps are narrowing and we are getting closer.” 

Hostage and Missing Families Forum holds rally for Gaza hostages

The Hostage and Missing Families Forum held a “No Coming Back Without a Deal” rally at Hostages Square on Saturday night.

“This year for Purim, There is no greater Mitzvah than Pidyon Shvuyim (the redemption of captives),” said the forum in an invitation to the rally. The rally included a reading of Esther and multiple speakers, including family members of hostages.

Thousands protested Saturday night in front of the Kirya military headquarters, calling for a hostage deal and reading the names of the hostages, according to protest organizations. Hundreds also  gathered in Jerusalem, with protesters carrying a banner that read “deal or death sentence.” 


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