Israeli delegation lands in Qatar for hostage talks
Relatives of Israelis held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza sitting in cages protest for their release outside the Knesset in Jerusalem, July 10, 2024. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The mediators will look to build on talks held in Cairo earlier in the week.

By Joshua Marks
July 10, 2024

(JNS) An Israeli delegation led by Mossad Director David Barnea arrived in Doha on Wednesday to continue hostage release and ceasefire negotiations.

The Israeli team also includes Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) chief Ronen Bar, who was in Cairo earlier this week to discuss an agreement with Egyptian and American officials. Maj. Gen. (res.) Nitzan Alon, head of the Missing and Captive Soldiers Division in the IDF, is also part of the delegation in Qatar.

CIA Director William Burns, Egyptian intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani are also expected to attend the Doha talks.

White House Middle East adviser Brett McGurk departed Israel for Doha on Wednesday to participate in the talks after meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in the day. He was also in Cairo for Tuesday’s negotiations and on Tuesday night met with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv.

During the meeting with Netanyahu, the prime minister stressed his commitment to an agreement, “as long as Israel’s red lines are preserved,” according to his office.

Israel’s red lines for a ceasefire are the ability to resume fighting until all war goals have been met; an end to arms smuggling into Gaza through Egypt; no return of “thousands” of terrorists to Gaza’s north; and maximizing the number of living hostages released, according to the Prime Minister’s Office, which outlined Jerusalem’s red lines on Sunday night.

Gallant told McGurk during their meeting that “a solution is required that will stop smuggling attempts and will cut off potential supply for Hamas, and will enable the withdrawal of IDF troops from the [Philadelphi] Corridor, as part of a framework for the release of hostages,” according to his office.

Israeli forces recently took security control of the entire Philadelphi Corridor, the 8.7-mile border area separating Gaza from Egypt, finding many smuggling tunnels. The IDF also took operational control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt and Gallant said that Jerusalem supports the reopening of the station, but will “not tolerate the return of Hamas to the area.”

While in Cairo, Bar and his team also discussed future control of the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt. Bar was also expected to discuss the construction of an underground barrier between Gaza and Egypt as part of efforts to prevent smuggling.

Army Radio reported on Monday that Cairo had sent a message to Jerusalem that it will work with the United States to assist in building the high-tech barrier if a ceasefire deal is reached. According to the report, Egypt said that work could start on the barrier during the first days of a ceasefire.

Hamas still holds more than 100 hostages from among those abducted during the Oct. 7 onslaught of the northwestern Negev.

Mediators are working to revive the phased ceasefire outline presented by President Joe Biden in May, which calls in its first stage for a “full and complete” six-week truce during which dozens of Israeli hostages—women, the elderly and the sick—would be exchanged for hundreds of Palestinian terrorists.

Meanwhile, Jerusalem and Hamas would negotiate the terms of the second phase, in which the remaining male hostages would be freed in return for Israel releasing additional Palestinian terrorists from jail.

In the third phase, the corpses of Israeli civilians and soldiers would be returned for burial, and the reconstruction of Gaza would begin.

Hamas has dropped its key demand that Jerusalem commit upfront to ending the war as part of any deal, the Associated Press reported on Saturday, citing anonymous Egyptian and Hamas terrorist officials.

However, it is still demanding written guarantees from mediators that the Jewish state will continue to negotiate a “permanent” ceasefire once the first phase of the agreement goes into effect, the officials noted.

The Hamas official said the move came after it received “verbal commitments and guarantees” from mediators that the war won’t be resumed and that talks will continue until a “permanent” truce is reached.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog on Sunday marked nine months since the beginning of the war by calling for the immediate return of all 120 hostages still being held in Gaza.

“Our hearts are with the bereaved families, the physically and mentally wounded, the abductees and their families who have been working for months to return their loved ones home,” he said. “The entire nation wants their return, and an absolute majority supports a hostage deal.”

Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose son Sagui, 35, was kidnapped by Hamas on Oct. 7, told JNS on Sunday, “Unfortunately, we’ve been here before, this is not the first time certain parties have expressed optimism about the possibility of getting a deal done. Speaking for myself, I’ll save the optimism until a deal is actually done and the hostages are home.”

Of the 120 hostages remaining in the Strip, 116 were abducted on Oct. 7 (the other four were captured earlier). The figure includes both living and deceased men, women and children.

At least dozens of the remaining hostages are believed to be alive, a senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations told AFP last month.

The official told the news agency that Israel cannot commit to ending the war as a precondition for a deal because Hamas could “breach their commitment … and drag out the negotiations for 10 years” or more.

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