Egyptian and Qatari officials were expected to present Hamas with a new Israeli truce proposal after high-level talks in Paris focused on brokering a deal to suspend fighting in Gaza and release hostages held by Hamas and other armed groups.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said talks would continue this week, signaling at least the potential for progress toward a deal as fighting approaches its fourth month. Sunday’s discussions were “constructive”, Mr Netanyahu’s office said, while warning that “significant differences” remained.
A person briefed on the talks said Israel had presented a proposal to Egypt and Qatar – two countries that have served as intermediaries since the fighting began – to join forces with Hamas, whose attack deadly cross-border attack on October 7 sparked a retaliatory war against Israel. the group in Gaza.
There was enough progress during the discussions that Egypt and Qatar saw fit to submit the new proposal to Hamas, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomacy.
Participants at Sunday’s meeting included CIA Director William J. Burns; Israeli spy chief David Barnea; the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, Ronen Bar; the Prime Minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani, and the Egyptian Minister of Intelligence, General Abbas Kamel.
Negotiators were considering leaving Paris, but discussions are expected to continue in the coming days in the hope that the new proposal would break the deadlock and restart negotiations in earnest, the person said without disclosing any details about the proposal. .
Israeli leaders have pledged for months to continue their war against Hamas until the organization’s military capabilities and ability to rule Gaza are dismantled and no longer pose a threat. But Hamas officials have publicly conditioned any further release of hostages on an Israeli commitment to end the war completely.
In recent days, U.S.-led negotiators have hammered out a draft written agreement merging proposals proposed by Israel and Hamas into a basic framework that would see Israel suspend its war in Gaza for about two months in exchange for gradual release of more than 100 hostages still alive. held by Hamas.
Efforts to free more hostages have stalled since an initial deal in November resulted in a week-long pause in fighting and the release of more than 100 hostages by Hamas and about 240 prisoners and Palestinian detainees held by Israel.
About 136 people taken hostage in the Oct. 7 attack remain missing, although about two dozen are presumed dead, according to Israeli officials. About 1,200 other people were killed in the raids, Israeli officials said.
There was no immediate information on where, when or who might attend.
But the push for a new deal comes as the hostages’ families and their supporters have increased pressure on the Israeli government to prioritize their release over continued fighting, and as Food and water shortages are worsening the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where health officials have said more than 26,000 people have died since the Israeli military response began.
An intense debate is underway in Israel over whether its advanced military offensive brings a hostage deal closer by putting pressure on Hamas leaders in Gaza or whether it pushes away the prospects of a deal and endangers the captives.
Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister and a key member of the country’s five-person war cabinet, told reserve troops he met Sunday: “Thanks to what you have done and continue to do, we These days we are carrying out a negotiation process for liberation. hostages,” adding that Israel would intensify its military pressure.