Israel and Hamas are edging toward a hostage deal that could result in the release of most of the Israeli women and children captured by the Palestinian armed group since the October 7 attack, the Washington Post reported on Monday, citing a senior Israeli official.
“The general outline of the deal is understood,” the Post’s source said, adding that the agreement could be announced within several days once details have been hashed out.
- According to the report, the agreement could involve the release of Israeli prisoners in groups in exchange for the simultaneous freeing of Palestinian women and young people held by West Jerusalem.
In a statement on Monday, Abu Ubaida, spokesman for Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades, said that the group was ready to free up to 70 Israeli children and women in exchange for a five-day truce.
- Meanwhile, an unnamed Arab official told the Post that Israel was holding at least 120 Palestinian women and young people in prisons. However, according to Ubaida, Hamas has been seeking the release of as many as 200 Palestinian children and 75 women.
A potential agreement could result not only in a prisoner swap and a temporary truce, but could also allow more international assistance to Gaza, which has been under “complete siege” for several weeks now, a source told the Post. However, Israel is said to want to verify the exact identities of those to be released, with this point reportedly still subject to negotiations.
According to an Israeli official interviewed by the paper, another factor in the hostage talks is that while the “vast majority” of the hostages are held by Hamas, others are in the custody of other groups. However, he reportedly pointed out that Hamas “has the power to negotiate for nearly all of them.”
After Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel last month, it took more than 240 hostages, including not only members of the military, but also civilians and foreign nationals.
To date, the Palestinian group has freed four people – a mother and daughter from Chicago and two elderly Israeli women. Qatar, which hosts Hamas’ political bureau in Doha, was instrumental in securing this release, with numerous media reports suggesting that the emirate continues to play a major mediation role in the conflict.