Mossad: Israel studying a Hamas response to the hostage deal proposal

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Israel is studying the latest Hamas response to a three-phase proposal to secure the release of the remaining 120 hostages in Gaza, the Mossad said in an unusual statement on Wednesday night.

“The hostages deal mediators have conveyed to the negotiating team Hamas’s remarks on the outline of the hostages deal.”

“Israel is evaluating the remarks and will convey its reply to the mediators,” it said.

A Hamas source said on Wednesday that the group exchanged “some ideas” with mediators on how to end the war in Gaza.

The hostage deal has been mediated by Qatar and Egypt, with the support of the United States. US President Joe Biden, however, has personally taken the diplomatic lead on the hostage deal, unveiling the latest proposal from the White House on May 31. The United States also secured the support of the United Nations Security Council for the deal.

The abductees are released from Hamas captivity (credit: REUTERS)

The United States has said in the past that Hamas had rejected the proposal Biden laid out, but it has pressed the terror group to reconsider. American officials have said that the US with the help of Egypt and Qatar is looking to close the gaps.

An Israeli security source said that “Hamas continues to insist on a principle clause in the outline that would prevent Israel from returning to fight after phase one of the proposal, something that is unacceptable to Israel.”

“There are other gaps that have not yet been closed,” the source said.

“Israel will continue negotiations while continuing the military and diplomatic pressure to bring about the release of all 120 of our hostages, both living and dead,” the source stated. 

Claims of hostages taking their lives

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad said earlier in the day that some of the hostages had tried to kill themselves in desperation.

“Some enemy prisoners have attempted suicide as a result of the extreme frustration they are feeling due to their government’s neglect of their cause,” Al Quds Brigades spokesperson Abu Hamza said in a post on Telegram.

“We will keep treating Israeli hostages the same way Israel treats our prisoners,” he added.

The Palestinian militant group did not specify what measures it had taken against Israeli hostages. The PIJ and Hamas have drawn an equivalency between the hostages seized from Israeli territory during the October 7 attack and Palestinians jailed by Israel for security offenses, including terror attacks. 

All hostage deal proposals have included the exchange of hostages for the release of Palestinian security prisoners. 

But the stumbling block has remained Hamas’s insistence on a permanent ceasefire before the start of the three-phased deal, which allows in the first stage for a lull in the fighting in exchange for the release of 33 of the hostages. The issue of a permanent ceasefire would only be decided on prior to the start of the second phase.

Palestinians Hamas militants wearing headbands reading ”the Lion’s Den”, during a march in support of the group in Gaza City on December 10, 2022. (credit: ATIA MOHAMMED/FLASH90)

Hamas also wants a total IDF withdrawal from the enclave before any deal gets under. Israel has rejected this idea.

KAN reported that there was a specific request that Israel withdraw from the Philadelphi Corridor as a first step toward a deal and as a confidence-building measure.

Commitment to deal

US Ambassador to Israel Jack Lew spoke twice on Wednesday about the importance of securing a deal that would lead to a permanent Gaza ceasefire.

“This plan offers an opportunity to wind down the war in Gaza, recover the hostages, and ensure that Hamas no longer governs Gaza,” Lew said at a toned-down July 4th celebration in Jerusalem.

At the inauguration of the Knesset-House Parliamentary Friendship Group in the parliament building earlier in the day, Lew said, “our efforts to bring the hostages home will not cease until we succeed.”

President Isaac Herzog, who spoke at the July 4th celebration, added, “Of course, we do not forget for a moment our hostages – including American citizens – being held by Hamas in Gaza. Ambassador Lew, I know that you and President Biden are doing everything possible to bring all of our hostages home. And I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Our commitment to bringing the hostages home is absolute. I meet hostage families almost every day. And I want to state clearly: We haven’t forgotten them for a moment. The nation hasn’t forgotten them for a moment.”

“There isn’t an Israeli household or family where thoughts of the hostages aren’t present. There isn’t a synagogue service, a public event, or even private occasions, where concern for the hostages isn’t voiced clearly. Where a prayer, an outcry, and a demand for their immediate return don’t reverberate. “

“Everybody wants them home. An overwhelming majority is in favor of the deal. The expectation that the country brings them home is at the heart of the Israeli consensus,” Herzog said.

The Hostage and Missing Families Forum has continued to express its frustration at the absence of a deal, calling on the government to make a deal now. The mothers of those held in Gaza plan to hold a special march in Tel Aviv on Friday calling for their children to be freed.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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