U.S.led negotiators are nearing a deal in which Israel would suspend the war in Gaza for about two months in return for the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas. The agreement is expected to be sealed in two weeks.
The talks are about a draft written agreement that summarizes the proposals put forward by Israel and Hamas over the last ten days into a basic framework that will be adjusted this Sunday in Paris (28).
Although key disagreements still need to be resolved, the leadership is cautiously optimistic that a final agreement is imminent, according to U.S. officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations.
President Joe Biden spoke separately by telephone Friday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, who acted as Hamas's mediators, to iron out remaining differences. He will also send CIA Director William Burns to Paris to take part in Sunday's talks.
This Saturday (27), Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated his commitment to ensuring the release of hostages who were not released in the first wave in November.
The shortlived ceasefire late last year led to a sevenday pause in fighting in exchange for the release of more than a hundred hostages by Hamas and about 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held by Israel. About 136 people captured on Oct. 7, when the war began, are still missing, including six Americans, although about 20 are believed to be dead.
The agreement reached now would be broader in scope than the previous one, officials say. In the first phase, fighting would pause for about 30 days while women, the elderly and injured hostages would be released by Hamas.
During that time, both sides would work out the details of a second phase in which military operations would be suspended for about another 30 days in exchange for Israeli soldiers and male civilians being detained.
Officials close to the negotiations believe that if Israel halts the war for two months, it is unlikely to resume it in the same way it has waged it so far. The ceasefire would provide a window for more diplomacy that could lead to a broader resolution of the conflict.