Israeli officials visited Qatar to discuss hostage deal, per report
Doha, Qatar. Credit: Pixabay.

The meeting focused on “controversial issues” in the outline presented by U.S. President Joe Biden late last month, including the number of hostages that would be released during the first phase.

JNS Staff Report
June 20, 2024

Israeli negotiators traveled to Qatar this week in an attempt to narrow the gaps between the agreed-upon hostage deal and Hamas’s demands, the London-based Elaph Arabic news outlet reported on Wednesday.

According to the report, which cited an official familiar with the ongoing talks, the meeting focused on “controversial issues” in the outline presented by U.S. President Joe Biden late last month, including the number of hostages that would be released during the first phase.

Elaph said Qatari officials have also been trying to get both sides to sign written commitments confirming their acceptance of the terms.

The government in Jerusalem has said it accepts Biden’s May 31 truce proposal, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has claimed does not call for a permanent end to the war that started with Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre of more than 1,200 men, women and children.

However, an Israeli official said on Monday that Hamas made “substantial changes to dozens of items” in the outline, which the United Nations Security Council approved on June 10.

The terror group is demanding an end to the war and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, he said, adding that Jerusalem’s goals still stand—the defeat of Hamas as a military and ruling power, the return of all hostages and the guarantee that Gaza cannot pose a threat to Israel.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Qatar that Hamas’s response included modifications that are not workable.

“A deal was on the table that was virtually identical to the proposal that Hamas made on May 6—a deal that the entire world is behind, a deal Israel has accepted. Hamas could have answered with a single word: ‘Yes,'” Washington’s top diplomat charged at a press conference.

More than 250 people were abducted to Gaza during Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in the northwestern Negev, during which thousands more were killed and wounded, with numerous atrocities documented.

One-hundred and twenty hostages remain in the Strip, of whom 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 on Tuesday.

The official told the 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.

On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal cited mediators and a U.S. official familiar with intelligence information as saying that the number of living captives could be as low as 50. That would mean 66 could be dead, 25 more than Jerusalem has acknowledged.

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