The Prime Minister's Office of Israel has reported positive developments in the peace talks aimed at achieving a ceasefire and the release of hostages held by Hamas. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed a constructive four-way meeting involving the United States, Israel, Qatar, and Egypt that took place in Europe. While progress was acknowledged, there are still gaps to address regarding the terms of the ceasefire and hostage release, which will be further discussed in the coming week.
The meeting, believed to have occurred in Paris, included participants such as CIA Director William Burns, Mossad intelligence agency head David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, and Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel. Israeli Shin Bet security service head Ronen Bar and IDF hostage envoy Nitzan Alon also attended the summit.
Hamas has reportedly insisted on an end to the war and the withdrawal of all IDF forces as conditions for releasing hostages, but Israel has rejected these demands outright. According to Israeli Defense Ministry sources, the peace agreement is envisioned in two phases.
In the initial phase, a temporary pause in the war would allow the release of elderly, women, children, and individuals under medication by Hamas, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. The second phase involves a further pause in the war, leading to the release of Israeli civilian men and soldiers in exchange for a larger number of Palestinians in Israeli prisons.
Notably, Hamas desires a permanent cessation of the war, a demand rejected entirely by Israel. A previous one-week ceasefire from November 24 to December 1 saw 105 hostages released by Hamas in exchange for 324 Palestinian prisoners.
The conflict began on October 7 when Hamas-led terrorists carried out a massive attack on Israel, resulting in 1,200 casualties, mostly civilians in the south of the country. Hamas terrorists committed atrocities, including massacres, sexual assaults, and torture. In response, Israel launched a military campaign and a ground offensive on October 27 to eradicate Hamas, dismantle its power in Gaza, and secure the release of hostages.
Official records indicate that 132 hostages abducted by Hamas on October 7 are still held in Gaza. Israel Defense Forces (IDF) confirm that 28 hostages are deceased, with three killed accidentally by IDF gunfire. The Ministry of Health in Gaza, controlled by Hamas, claims over 26,000 Palestinian casualties since Israel's counter-attack, including numerous women and children, leading to accusations of genocide against Israel. IDF statements report the deaths of more than 200 soldiers in the ongoing conflict.
(With Agency Inputs)