Negotiations are underway to reach a three-day humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza in exchange for the release of about a dozen hostages held by Hamas, according to two officials from Egypt, one from the United Nations and a Western diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic efforts.
The deal would enable more aid, including limited amounts of fuel, to enter the besieged territory to alleviate worsening conditions for the 2.3 million Palestinians trapped there. It is being brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the US, according to the officials and the diplomat.
One of the Egyptian officials says details of the deal were discussed this week in Cairo with the visiting CIA chief and an Israeli delegation. The official said mediators are finalising a draft deal.
A senior US official said the Biden administration has not put forward any specific time frame for a pause in Israel’s military operations but has suggested that Israel consider tying the length of a pause to the release of a certain number of hostages.
If an agreement on the duration of the pause and the number of hostages to be freed can be reached and the deal successfully implemented, the same formula could be revisited for additional pauses and releases, according to the official.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said any temporary ceasefire would have to be accompanied by the release of the hostages who were seized by Hamas during the militant group’s October 7 assault on southern Israel. Israel has said around 240 hostages, both Israelis and those with foreign passports, are currently held in Gaza.
An earlier report in The New York Times said Israel and Hamas have been negotiating for the release of as many as 15 hostages in exchange for a brief suspension in the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.