The head of Hamas told Reuters on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was close to a truce deal with Israel, even as the deadly attack on Gaza continues and rockets are fired at Israel. Qatari mediators, Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement sent to Reuters by his aide. The statement did not provide further details, but a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV that the talks focused on how long the truce would last, then on agreements to deliver aid to Gaza and the exchange of Israeli hostages held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.
Both sides will release women and children, with details to be released by Qatar, which is mediating the talks, said official Isat al-Reshik. Hamas has taken about 240 hostages during its rampage in Israel on October 7, in which 1,200 people were killed. Mirjana Špoljarić Egger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met with Haniyeh in Qatar on Monday to “advance humanitarian issues” related to the conflict, according to an ICRC statement based in Geneva. It also met separately with Qatari authorities.
The ICRC said it was not part of negotiations aimed at freeing the hostages, but as a neutral mediator it was ready to “facilitate any future release agreed upon by the parties.” Stories of an imminent hostage deal have been swirling for days. Reuters reported last week that Qatari mediators were seeking a deal for Hamas and Israel to exchange 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day ceasefire that would increase emergency aid deliveries to civilians in Gaza, citing an official familiar with the talks.
Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, said in on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he hoped for an agreement “in the coming days,” while Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the remaining concerns were “very minor.” United States President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials said Monday that a deal was close, but a deal appeared to be close earlier. “Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
The October 7 attack by Hamas, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year history, prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian territory to destroy Hamas. Since then, the Hamas-led Gaza government has said that at least 13,300 Palestinians were killed, including at least 5,600 children and 3,550 women, in the relentless Israeli bombardment. Hamas announced on its Telegram account on Monday that it had launched a barrage rocket towards Tel Aviv. Witnesses also reported that rockets were fired into central Israel.