Israel and Hamas negotiating for release of civilian hostages in Gaza

06:41PM Sat 11 Nov, 2023

Israel and Hamas are currently in negotiations for two hostage release proposals, one involving a small number of individuals and the other concerning the release of 100 or more civilians held in Gaza, as per reports. 

Israeli officials claim that Hamas holds over 240 hostages in Gaza, with slightly less than half of them being civilians. The broader deal being negotiated aims to secure the release of all these civilians.

In the first proposal, Hamas would release 10 to 20 civilian hostages, including Israeli women, children, and foreigners, in exchange for a brief pause in hostilities by Israel. This initial release would be followed by a larger one involving about 100 civilians if both parties agree. However, Hamas has refused to release military-age Israeli men held in Gaza.

Furthermore, in exchange for releasing all civilians, Hamas is requesting a brief pause, along with additional humanitarian aid, fuel for hospitals, and the release of women and children from Israeli prisons.

According to reports, Israeli authorities have expressed uncertainty about releasing their prisoners. Qatar, hosting the political offices of Hamas, is the main mediator in these talks, along with senior US officials.

US officials support the proposed idea of Israel pausing its attacks in Gaza for a hostage release, believing it would allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza and facilitate the departure of the hostages after their release.

On Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated, "We'll continue to focus relentlessly on getting our hostages home." However, the Israeli Prime Minister's office has refrained from commenting on this matter.

Complicating the situation, Hamas told Qatari negotiators that it held 20 or fewer civilians, with the rest being held by other groups in Gaza not part of the Hamas command structure. It was reported that the governments involved had not independently verified this claim.

In recent weeks, some Hamas officials argued that the group targeted only military outposts in Israel on October 7, claiming armed men killed over 1000 Israelis and took about 240 hostages in Gaza. However, evidence, including videos, suggests that Hamas also attacked civilians in their homes.

Additionally, Hamas officials informed negotiators that they have most, if not all, of the Israeli military personnel captured (130 to 140) and expressed no intention of releasing them soon. Israeli officials have not provided a breakdown of military versus civilian hostages. Israeli and US officials remain skeptical of Hamas's claims regarding the number of civilians held in Gaza.

(Inputs from ANI)