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Tacit optimism as Israel studies latest Hamas proposal for hostage deal

'Closing the negotiations will take a long time,' Israeli source warns

Demonstrators protest calling for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip outside Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv, July 3, 2024 (Photo: Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90).

Israel is “studying” a new Hamas proposal for a hostage deal that was transmitted by the mediating countries on Wednesday, while sources expressed cautious optimism about the chances for an agreement to Israeli media outlets.

“For the first time, Hamas’ answer allows progress. There is a basis for negotiations,” an unnamed source said.

While the exact details of the new offer have not been disclosed, the update followed reports that the United States had presented “new language” in several articles of the hostage deal outline presented by U.S. President Joe Biden last month and forms the basis of the current negotiations.

It focused on the issue of the negotiations following the first phase of the potential deal, the Axios news outlet reported.

Hamas wants to limit this stage to discussions about the identities of the Palestinian prisoners who stand to be released, while Israel wants to include other issues, like a possible de-militarization of the Gaza Strip after the war.

“We received an answer without a demand for a commitment to stop the war already in phase one,” a senior Israeli official told Channel 12 News.

Before reports of the new Hamas offer appeared, Israeli media outlets published a statement by a “senior security official,” widely suspected to be an anonymous statement coming from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

“Hamas continues to insist on a principle clause in the outline that would prevent Israel from returning to fight after phase one of the outline, something that is unacceptable to Israel. There are other gaps that have not yet been closed,” the PMO statement read.

“Israel will continue negotiations while continuing the military and political pressure to bring about the release of all 120 of our abductees, both living and dead.”

Shortly after, the PMO released a statement in the name of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, Mossad, which has been leading the hostage deal negotiations on behalf of Israel.

“The mediators in the hostage deal conveyed Hamas’ reference to the outline of the hostage deal to the negotiation team. Israel is studying the reference and will return its answer to the mediators.”

Several unnamed Israeli sources were later quoted in various media outlets, expressing cautious optimism but warning that the sides were still far from a final agreement.

Channel 12 cited a source warning that even if Hamas were to agree, in the end, “closing the negotiations will take a long time.”

“It is possible to return the female IDF observers, the women, the children, the wounded, the sick, the elderly. It is possible, and there is an escape route to return to fighting if Hamas violates the terms of the agreement. There is a basis for a good deal here,” another source stated.

“Important progress has been made, but there is still a significant way to go with serious challenges,” an Israeli source told Axios.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Joe Biden are expected to speak by phone later in the day, a PMO official told the Times of Israel.

Netanyahu will then meet the Israeli negotiation team before a Cabinet meeting in the evening, which is expected to focus on Israel's response to the latest proposal.

Hamas, in a brief statement, only confirmed it had “exchanged some ideas with the mediators in order to end the aggression against our Palestinian people.”

Israel's KAN news site later stated that Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh spoke with Qatari and Egyptian mediators, informing them of the proposed elements needed to reach an agreement.

“Hamas sees the contacts taking place in a positive spirit,” according to the report.

However, a Hamas source told the Hezbollah-affiliated Al-Mayadeen channel that it continues to insist on a permanent ceasefire, a full withdrawal of IDF troops from Gaza, and the return of the displaced Palestinians to their homes.

In addition, the source emphasized that Hamas insists on the withdrawal of IDF troops from the Philadelphi Corridor and the Rafah border crossing in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border.

“The families of the abductees congratulate the prime minister on promoting the ‘Netanyahu deal.’ At the same time, and in light of statements by senior ministers, if the government fails Netanyahu's deal to release the abductees, there will be no escape from millions of Israelis taking to the streets,” the Hostage and Missing Families Forum stated in response to the new proposal.

“We will not allow government ministers to torpedo a deal one more time. We will not allow government ministers to sabotage another deal. It is about an Israeli ethos and a supreme human value that leaves no one behind.”

“Full return of the abductees or all citizens of the State of Israel take to the roads and intersections. We will not abandon the 120 kidnapped a second time,” the statement read.

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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