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Hamas’s political chief said on Tuesday that the group was considering a proposal to pause the fighting in Gaza and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners, a potentially promising sign for a deal that was immediately followed by a reminder of the hurdles ahead.
Ismail Haniyeh the Hamas leader suggested in a press release that he was open to a deal, but continued to insist on the long-standing demand of the total withdrawal from Gaza of Israeli forces, which Benjamin Netanyahu the Israeli Prime Minister immediately rejected.
Representatives from four nations — the United States, Qatar, Egypt and Israel — agreed over the weekend at talks in Paris to present the group with a framework that would begin with a six-week cease-fire to allow for the release of more hostages.
Haniyeh stated that Hamas is studying the proposal. He thanked Qatar and Egypt for their work and implied in his statement that Hamas would be willing to work within the framework if it helped achieve its demands. He said that Hamas also wanted a permanent ceasefire, the withdrawal of Israeli troops, and the reconstruction of Gaza.
Mr. Netanyahu appeared to immediately push back at Mr. Haniyeh’s statements, saying that Israel would not withdraw its military from Gaza or free thousands of Palestinian prisoners.
“We will not compromise on anything less than total victory,” he said in a speech in the West Bank, according to an Israeli statement.
It was unclear whether the two men’s comments were attempts to stake out negotiating positions or to appeal to their constituencies at home. But the agreement by Hamas’s leader to even consider a proposal floated in part by Israel raised hopes that there was a possibility of a deal, even if there are still big differences between the sides.
After talks on Sunday in Paris, representatives of the four nations agreed for Qatar to present a framework to Hamas, which proposes a ceasefire in the war. During this time, Hamas will be allowed to continue its operations. Exchange of hostagesOfficials said that Palestinian prisoners held by Israel were held in Gaza.
According to the officials, the Hamas plan would include the release of older hostages and women and children if they are still alive and being held. This would be the first phase of three possible phases of swaps.
Mr. Haniyeh added in his statement that Hamas had received an invitation to Cairo to discuss “the framework agreement from the Paris meeting.”
The officials, who agreed on anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic issues, warned that the talks were in an early phase and that many specifics would need to work out if Hamas decided to build upon the framework. The group’s political leaders, including Mr. Haniyeh, would need to convey the proposal to its military leaders — a process that could take days or longer because the military leaders are believed to be hiding in tunnels deep beneath Gaza.
The meeting in Paris — which included the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; Israeli security officials; and the prime minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani — came as Israel’s government has faced increased pressure over its handling of the war, which began on Oct. 7. That day, Hamas led sweeping attacks into Israel that Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 more hostage, making it the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.
More than 100 hostages, along with other prisoners, were released after a weeklong break in the fighting that occurred in November. 240 Palestinian prisonersDetainees detained by Israel. But so far, efforts to reach a new agreement have been unsuccessful.
The International Court of Justice, The Hague, last week ordered an urgent deal for family members of those who are still being held in Gaza. Delivering more humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where health officials say more than 26,000 people have died since Israel’s military campaign began.
Sheikh Mohammed, the Qatari prime minister, said on Monday that “good progress” had been made in the negotiations. Speaking at an event hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, he said that talks were the only viable path toward de-escalation, adding that the rising death toll from Israel’s campaign in Gaza was “not getting any results to get the hostages back.”