Hamas demands release of 3,000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel - reports

08:52PM Sun 4 Feb, 2024

Hamas has demanded that Israel release 3,000 Palestinian prisoners during their indirect talks on a fresh pause to fighting in the Gaza Strip, Al Arabiya news channel reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the talks.

Hamas wants the three-stage truce to include the release of Palestinian prisoners as a fourth stage, the sources told the broadcaster.

Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Majed Al-Ansari said on Friday that Israel had given a positive initial response to the newest truce proposal that would start with a six-week halt to fighting and include the release of dozens of hostages held by Hamas.

The truce proposal was agreed in Paris in late January by Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar. Hamas said it had received a draft and was reviewing it. Israeli media reported that the Mossad intelligence agency wanted the first stage of the plan to see 35 hostages released in exchange for a 35-day pause to fighting.

On October 7, 2023, Palestinian movement Hamas launched a large-scale rocket attack against Israel from Gaza and breached the border, killing 1,200 people and abducting around 240 others. Israel launched retaliatory strikes, ordered a complete blockade of Gaza, and started a ground incursion into the Palestinian enclave with the declared goal of eliminating Hamas fighters and rescuing the hostages. Over 27,000 people have been killed so far in the Gaza Strip, local authorities said.

On November 24, Qatar mediated a deal between Israel and Hamas on a temporary truce and the exchange of some of the prisoners and hostages, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. The ceasefire was extended several times and expired on December 1. More than 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza.