January 31, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel, Hamas Weigh Three-Stage Deal for Return of Hostages

January 31, 2024 | Flash Brief

Israel, Hamas Weigh Three-Stage Deal for Return of Hostages

Latest Developments

Egyptian mediators delivered a proposal to Hamas on January 30 that would see Israel pause its counteroffensive against Hamas in exchange for the terror group’s release of all remaining hostages. According to The Washington Post, the deal involves an initial six-week pause during which Hamas would release the civilian hostages. Hamas would release soldiers during a second pause, and the bodies of hostages who have died in captivity during a third. In return, Israel will free a large number of Palestinian prisoners from its jails and temporarily reposition its troops away from Gaza’s population centers. The three-stage deal, parts of which Jerusalem has reportedly accepted “in principle,” also provides for increased humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Expert Analysis

“While the release of all the remaining hostages will achieve a goal the Israeli government set for itself at the beginning of the war, it will likely come at a steep cost. Senior members of Hamas, including those captured during the October 7 terrorist attacks, may be released. Nevertheless, Israel will have to carefully examine what prisoners it will release so as not to repeat the mistakes of the Gilad Shalit deal when terrorists like Yahya Sinwar were set free.” Joe Truzman, Senior Research Analyst at FDD’s Long War Journal

“Hamas is offering the lives and remains of Israeli hostages in exchange for its own survival. However, it is hard to imagine that Jerusalem will countenance a deal that allows the architects of October 7 to survive this war.” Enia Krivine, Senior Director of FDD’s Israel Program and National Security Network

Remaining Hostages

Israeli anguish over the 136 remaining hostages — 27 of whom have been declared dead in captivity — is mounting as Hamas insists that any hostage deal involve a permanent end to Israel’s counteroffensive.

On January 27, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded that Qatar, a sponsor of Hamas, do more to secure the release of hostages in Gaza. “Qatar hosts the leaders of Hamas. It also funds Hamas. It has leverage over Hamas,” Netanyahu said. “So they should be so good as to apply their pressure. They positioned themselves as mediators — so please, go right ahead, let them be so good as to bring back our hostages.”

Previous Hostage Release

Israel and Hamas agreed on November 21 to a four-day pause in fighting in exchange for the release of some Israeli hostages Hamas seized on October 7. The parties agreed to a two-day extension on November 27, and a one-day extension on November 30. Hamas released 81 Israeli hostages during the week-long pause. The terrorist group also released 23 Thai nationals, one Filipino, and three Israeli-Russian dual citizens under separate arrangements with Bangkok, Manila, and Moscow. The pause 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.

Israel reportedly proposed a new seven-day pause on December 20 in exchange for the release of 40 hostages, including the remaining women, children, and elderly men. Hamas rejected the offer, allegedly telling Egyptian mediators that Israel had to permanently cease its counteroffensive before Hamas would discuss any deal. On January 22, Jerusalem offered Hamas a two-month pause in exchange for the hostages. However, the proposal did not require Israel to permanently end its counteroffensive against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel: Discussion of Hostage Crisis ‘Constructive,’ But ‘Significant Gaps’ Remain,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Demands Qatari Action on Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

Israel Offers Two-Month Pause in Fighting in Exchange for Hostages,” FDD Flash Brief

Hamas Rejects Israel’s Offer for Second Humanitarian Pause,” FDD Flash Brief


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