Hamas Said To Move Toward Israel On Truce Deal, But Israel PM Claims Demands Still ‘Ridiculous’

Terror group appears to list prisoners it wants freed for first time as source tells broadcaster deal possible; Netanyahu says pressure on Qatar to lean on Hamas ‘starting to work’

March 15, 2024, 7:32 a.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office downplayed hopes for an elusive deal with the Hamas terror group to pause fighting in Gaza and release hostages Thursday night, after an Israeli report indicated the sides were on the cusp of sealing an agreement.

An anonymous source told the Kan public broadcaster Thursday evening that a Hamas response to Israel’s negotiating position had included “reasonable” demands, indicating that “an agreement can be reached.”

But hours later, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office claimed the terror organization had not shown flexibility, describing its demands as “ridiculous.

People visit a tunnel installation at Hostages Square in Tel Aviv on March 14, 2024. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office downplayed hopes for an elusive deal with the Hamas terror group to pause fighting in Gaza and release hostages Thursday night, after an Israeli report indicated the sides were on the cusp of sealing an agreement.

An anonymous source told the Kan public broadcaster Thursday evening that a Hamas response to Israel’s negotiating position had included “reasonable” demands, indicating that “an agreement can be reached.”

But hours later, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Office claimed the terror organization had not shown flexibility, describing its demands as “ridiculous.”

Mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the US have been scrambling to broker a deal between the warring sides for a several-week break in the fighting in Gaza and the release of some 100 hostages and dozens of bodies held captive in the enclave.

Talks appeared to break down late last week as Hamas demanded that Israel end the war and withdraw all troops in Gaza, rather than the six-week pause and partial withdrawal Jerusalem had already agreed to.

Hopes had risen in recent days though, with a senior Arab diplomat telling the Times of Israel earlier this week that talks were advancing after Qatar put heavy pressure on Hamas to soften its demands, warning that its leaders residing in Doha could be deported if they didn’t adapt their approach in the negotiations.

According to the Kan report, Qatari mediators passed Hamas’s official response to Israel’s negotiating team Thursday evening, which a source familiar with the matter said indicated “positive progress in the talks.

A senior Israeli official was quoted by the Walla news site saying that Hamas’s response for the first time included the number of Palestinian security prisoners it wants to be released in exchange for freeing hostages in a first stage of the deal. According to the Arab Diplomat who spoke to ToI, the initial stage, which would last six weeks, would see the release of some 40 female, elderly and wounded hostages. Soldiers and all other male hostages would be released during a second phase, and a third phase would see the bodies of hostages released.

Source The Times of Israel

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