In a surprising turn of events, the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, announced on Tuesday that a truce agreement with Israel was on the horizon.
This comes alongside optimistic statements from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing hope for positive developments regarding the release of hostages.
Hamas officials, according to Haniyeh, are “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel, and the group has conveyed its response to Qatari mediators. Meanwhile, Netanyahu cautiously remarked, “We are making progress. I hope there will be good news soon.” This marks a significant shift in the discourse surrounding the conflict, offering a glimmer of hope for a pause in hostilities and the release of captives.
Netanyahu has called for meetings of his war cabinet and broader security cabinet to discuss the evolving situation. Sources close to the negotiations suggest that the long-anticipated agreement is in its “final stages” and is “closer than it has ever been.” This sentiment is echoed by a U.S. official who remarked, “It’s the closest we’ve been” to a hostage deal.
The proposed deal involves the release of approximately 50 civilian hostages by Hamas and the liberation of female and minor-aged Palestinian detainees from Israeli custody. Additionally, the agreement includes a multi-day pause in fighting. A Hamas official revealed that negotiations are focusing on the duration of the truce, aid delivery into Gaza, and specifics of the captive exchange. The details of the agreement, especially regarding the release of women and children, will be announced by Qatar, the mediating party.
Israeli media outlets have reported that the terms of a deal could be finalized “within hours,” indicating a potential breakthrough in the negotiations. The hostage situation arose from a Hamas raid on October 7, resulting in the deadliest day in Israel’s history.
Despite the positive developments, the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza persists. The recent rain and cold weather have worsened conditions for the displaced population, with many sleeping in makeshift tents. Meanwhile, Gaza health authorities reported at least 20 Palestinians killed in Israeli bombing at the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.
As negotiations enter a critical phase, the international community closely watches the evolving situation, hoping for a truce that brings relief to the affected populations and averts further escalation of hostilities.