Hamas Still Mulling Hostage Release Proposal, Says Official
A Hamas official tells The Media Line that the group’s leaders inside and outside Gaza are still discussing a proposed cease-fire and hostage release deal and that they will give their answer after they “thoroughly study” it
By Mohammad Al-Kassim/The Media Line
Hamas is still debating a proposed cease-fire and hostage release deal, a Hamas official has told The Media Line.
The official said the group’s internal and external leaders were still debating “whether the proposal is in Gaza’s best interest.”
“There is no agreement yet,” he said. He also refused to give a time when Hamas leaders would provide their decision, saying, “We need to thoroughly study the proposed deal and we will give our response afterwards.”
The proposal, brokered by the US, Qatar, and Egypt, would reportedly provide for the release of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 in three stages that might take up to 120 days. There are also suggestions that the truce may lead to a permanent cease-fire at the end of the 120 days.
According to Hamas sources, the group does not doubt the intentions of the Arab mediators, but it is preparing a response involving consultations between its leaders inside and outside the Gaza Strip.
“The only leverage Hamas has is the hostages, and it wants to make sure it can get the most out of it,” Ramallah-based political analyst Esmat Mansour told The Media Line.
“But accepting a pause in the fighting can provide an opportunity to rearrange its military situation and fill the vacancies left by the martyrdom of some of its field commanders, and as a result of the Israeli army’s occupation of important sites and basic strongholds that it controlled.”
The Palestinian Authority, which is trying to find a way to return to ruling Gaza, has made an offer to Hamas, its longtime rival, to join the PLO’s political program.
PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called on Hamas to accept a role in a future technocratic government under the PLO in Gaza.
Hamas has yet to give its formal response to that offer.
“I believe that Hamas’ response to a potential truce deal will be detailed and not a yes or no kind of response,” Ahmad Rafiq Awad, a professor at Al-Quds University, told The Media Line.
“Hamas’ response, in my analysis, will be in the form that this is a framework agreement with no details, and Hamas will set out the details that it deems appropriate from its point of view in the first, second, and third stages,” he said.
“The resistance’s priority now is the flow of aid and stopping people’s suffering, and the issue of prisoners. The priority is to stop the ongoing onslaught affecting civilians in Gaza.”
Awad said that Hamas’ response might include plans for starting reconstruction, creating field hospitals, and repairing water purification facilities and electricity supply lines.
“The most important question now is whether the agreement will lead to the Israeli army pulling out of Gaza. Hamas insists on this, it rejects the buffer zone and rejects any army presence in Gaza,” Awad said. “Israel refuses to give guarantees so far. This may be a reason why a deal is delayed or not reached.”
Asked on ABC’s This Week program about progress on a potential hostage release deal, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “I can’t say it’s imminent, but ultimately these kinds of negotiations unfold somewhat slowly until they unfold very quickly. And so it’s difficult to put a precise timetable on when something might come together or frankly if something might come together. But sitting here today I cannot tell you it’s right around the corner.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Saudi Arabia on Monday, on his fifth visit to the region since the outbreak of the war in Gaza. His visit aimed to discuss a potential cease-fire deal and postwar planning for Gaza, tamp down regional tensions, and discuss a Saudi normalization deal with Israel.
Blinken met Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday, before setting off for Qatar, Egypt, Israel and the West Bank later this week in a push to advance the Egypt- and Qatar-mediated talks on a hostage release deal.
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