Israel and Hamas have been in negotiations for the release of Israeli women and children captured by the Palestinian armed group in an attack on October 7, according to a report from The Washington Post. A senior Israeli official was cited as saying that both sides are close to reaching an agreement that could see most of the hostages being released in a prisoner swap deal.
The general outline of the deal is already understood, and the agreement is expected to be announced within a few days once the details are finalized, the report said. It is anticipated that the deal will involve the release of Israeli prisoners in exchange for the simultaneous freeing of Palestinian women and young people held by Israel.
Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades spokesman, Abu Ubaida, stated that the group is prepared to release up to 70 Israeli children and women in exchange for a five-day truce. An unnamed Arab official informed the Post that Israel was holding at least 120 Palestinian women and young people in its prisons. However, Hamas has been seeking the release of as many as 200 Palestinian children and 75 women.
In addition to the prisoner swap and a temporary truce, the potential agreement could also allow for more international assistance to Gaza, as it has been under a complete siege for several weeks, according to the Post. However, Israel is said to want to verify the exact identities of those to be released, which is still subject to negotiations.
The hostage talks also involve groups other than Hamas, as it was stated that while the vast majority of the hostages are held by Hamas, others are in the custody of different groups. Nevertheless, Hamas has the power to negotiate for nearly all of them.
Following the surprise attack by Hamas, more than 240 people, including civilians, foreign nationals, and military members, were taken hostage. To date, the Palestinian group has released four people, and Qatar has played a major role in securing their release, with the emirate continuing to play a significant mediation role in the conflict.
The negotiations signify a potential breakthrough in the Israel-Hamas conflict, which has seen violence and tension escalate over the past few weeks. A truce and the release of prisoners could pave the way for a de-escalation of the situation in the region, allowing civilians on both sides to live without the fear of violence.
The involvement of both Israeli and Arab officials, as well as international mediators, in reaching an agreement underscores the pivotal role that diplomacy plays in resolving complex and protracted conflicts. The diplomatic efforts also highlight the willingness of the involved parties to seek peaceful solutions and compromise in the interest of stability and security in the region.