December 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Rejects Israel’s Offer for Second Humanitarian Pause

December 21, 2023 | Flash Brief

Hamas Rejects Israel’s Offer for Second Humanitarian Pause

Latest Developments

Hamas rejected an Israeli proposal for a new humanitarian pause on December 20 as more than 100 hostages, including women and children, remain in the Gaza Strip after being abducted during the October 7 massacre. Hamas and fellow terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad reportedly told Egyptian mediators that Israel must permanently cease its counteroffensive before they would be willing to discuss any deal. “We want to stop the aggression, the war in Gaza. This is our priority. There are some people looking for a small pause, a pause here and there, for one week, two weeks, three weeks. But I think our decision is very clear,” said senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad, The Times of Israel reported.

Israel reportedly offered a seven-day pause in exchange for the release of 40 hostages, including the remaining women, children, and elderly men. In return, Israel would pause ground operations, allow more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza, and consider releasing more Palestinian prisoners, including people incarcerated for more serious offenses than the prisoners Israel released during the previous pause.

Expert Analysis

“The deal, as described, would have presented both risks and rewards for Israel. The reward was the release of an estimated 40 Israelis held for nearly three months by Hamas. The risk was that Hamas could use the time — reportedly at least one week — to prepare for the next round of battle. Hamas has already started to ambush Israeli soldiers and even engage in suicide bombing. With more time to prepare for such tactics, Israel risked giving too much time and space to Hamas. Hamas’s rejection of Israel’s proposal may be a disappointment to some Israelis, but the momentum of the war remains in Israel’s favor, at least for now.” Jonathan Schanzer, FDD Senior Vice President for Research

“Hamas aims to assert control over the ongoing conflict by pressuring Israel to halt its military operation in return for resuming hostage negotiations. However, this is a bad deal for Israel. If a permanent ceasefire were enacted as a precondition for hostage negotiations, Hamas would be able to sustain its operations within Gaza, consequently undermining the goals of the Israeli military’s intervention in the enclave.” Joe Truzman, Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

Flurry of Diplomatic Activity

During the past week, Egypt and Qatar mediated negotiations as they had before the previous pause. On December 20, Hamas’s political chief, Ismail Haniyeh, traveled to Cairo to discuss the potential deal. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed terrorist group in Gaza holding Israeli hostages, is reportedly also sending a representative to Cairo. Israel’s representative, Mossad director David Barnea, traveled to Warsaw, where he met with Central Intelligence Agency director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Israel says 129 hostages remain in Gaza, of whom 21 are believed to be dead. The hostages include 19 women, two children, and 11 foreign nationals. Approximately eight Americans remain in captivity.

Previous Humanitarian Pause

Hamas took approximately 240 hostages into Gaza on October 7. The terror group released 81 Israeli hostages between November 24 and November 30 as part of an Egyptian- and Qatari-mediated deal that paused fighting in the Gaza Strip. Hamas also released 23 Thai nationals, one Filipino, and three Israeli-Russian dual citizens under separate arrangements with Bangkok, Manila, and Moscow. The deal collapsed on December 1, when Hamas refused to provide a list of the remaining women and children in captivity and resumed launching rockets at Israel.

Russia Demands Hamas Release Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

Red Cross President Calls on Hamas to Release Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

Qatar’s Leverage on Hamas Falters, Hostages Remain,” FDD Flash Brief


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