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Positive progress in hostage talks in Qatar: Optimism regarding return of Palestinian civilians to northern Gaza

Hamas' demand: Release of 30 terrorists serving life sentences in exchange for each kidnapped soldier

Pictures of Israeli hostages held by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip are displayed at a forest near Jerusalem, March 17, 2024. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Optimism prevails in Qatar following rounds of talks between the mediators, in regards to a solution to one of the significant issues hindering a deal – the return of Palestinian residents to northern Gaza.

On Saturday evening, an Israeli source stated on the KAN news outlet that a solution could be reached regarding the northern Gaza Strip.

After consulting with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it was decided that the heads of the Mossad, the Shin Bet, and General Alon will return tonight from Qatar. Israel estimates that Hamas will respond within 48 hours.

A senior Israeli official stated that significant gaps have been brought to light regarding the ratio of releasing Israeli hostages versus Palestinian prisoners. In addition, several proposals have been placed on the table, including a compromise proposal from the United States, to which Israel has agreed but Hamas has not yet responded.

The Al Jazeera channel reported on details of the differences between Israel and Hamas regarding negotiations for a hostage release deal. According to the report, Israel refused to halt the fighting, withdraw forces, and return displaced persons without limitation. Israel demanded the release of 40 living hostages from all groups and insisted on maintaining three different stages for the deal.

It was also reported that Israel demanded to retain the right to expel prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment, who would be released in the deal, outside the country's borders.

It was further reported that Israel rejected Hamas' demand to release 30 prisoners serving life sentences in exchange for each kidnapped female soldier and indicated the only five it is willing to release.

In addition, according to the Al Jazeera report, Israel demanded the release of the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul in exchange for the release of prisoners who were freed in the Shalit deal and later re-arrested.

Regarding the return of the displaced civilians to northern Gaza, according to the Israeli proposal, 2,000 people will be allowed to return each day, starting two weeks after the implementation of the deal.

A diplomat from one of the Arab countries told KAN last night that the meeting between the foreign ministers of several Arab countries with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Cairo yesterday was intended to show a unified Arab front around several issues: The shortage of humanitarian aid to Gaza, the immediate need for a ceasefire, the arrangements for the return of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to the Gaza Strip, and the cessation of Israeli policy to weaken the PA.

Israel is considering Hamas' demand for a commitment not to assassinate the organization's senior officials if they are exiled outside the Gaza Strip - in exchange for an agreement that would include the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, the return of all hostages and the withdrawal of IDF forces from the Gaza Strip. The proposal is promoted by the United States as part of the next phase of the deal for the release of 40 hostages in exchange for a six-week ceasefire. A senior Israeli official told KAN that a proposal is being considered, "including a commitment not to harm the exiled senior officials."

Suleiman is a political reporter for KAN 11.

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