Opinion | Hostage negotiators in Qatar build momentum behind ‘more for more’

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According to US and Israeli intelligence officials, the Israeli-Hamas hostage negotiations continue On Tuesday, he met with the Qatari mediator And they discussed a plan to release all Israelis held captive in Gaza, including soldiers.

of “For more“The logic that has guided the hostage talks so far is strong for both Israel and Hamas,” said a source close to the negotiations. Although no final commitments have been made, he said “there is interest on both sides” in a broader deal that would free all Israeli captives, provide a longer ceasefire, release Palestinian prisoners and provide more humanitarian aid to the Palestinians. in Gaza.

Tuesday’s meeting was brokered by CIA Director William J. Burns, Mossad Director David Barnes and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani with Hamas leaders in Doha.

The structure of Tuesday’s talks is from November 8 meeting Which led to the release of the hostages that began in Doha at the end of the week and now have been released in general 61 Israeli prisoners and 150 Palestinians, including those with dual citizenship. As before, the Qataris met with a representative of the Mossad, who demanded that Hamas clarify the parameters for its release, who outlined Israel’s requirements..

The negotiators agreed on the future release of five Israeli hostages, a source with knowledge said. The five groups are: men too old for military service, female soldiers, male reservists, active duty male soldiers, and Israeli bodies who died before or during captivity. The total is more than 100, but the source said he could not yet give an exact number.

Hamas “expressed its willingness to negotiate on all five categories,” the source said. The parameters of the exchange — how many Gaza captives are freed each day, how many Palestinian prisoners are exchanged for each Israeli, and how much humanitarian aid is sent to Gaza — have not been worked out, he said.

The rest of the hostages were distributed by various groups besides Hamas. Some are held by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which, like Hamas, is an Iranian-backed faction. But some of them are little more than gang families held by small armed groups. Hamas told the Qataris that they are “confident that they will meet everyone,” the source said, although they are scattered.

One unfortunate problem is that while Hamas and Islamic Jihad are hostages in tunnels, relatively safe from shelling and bombing, the smaller groups have their captives above ground and may be in greater danger. “Hamas is not sure who is alive and who is not,” the source said.

If the hostages continue to be released – and as far as the military captives that Hamas greatly rewards – the negotiators will have to face the issue of whether fighting will resume after the release of the captives.

This final will be a tough affair of all. Israel says it will continue the war until it destroys Hamas’ ability to rule Gaza. Hamas, on the other hand, wants to survive both physically and politically. It is difficult to see any room for compromise on these questions, which both sides see as existential.

But the hostage release process has so far exceeded expectations, and this is likely to continue. The key is the step-by-step confidence building adopted by the Qatari mediators. At first, none of the negotiators was sure if Hamas would keep its word or if its political leaders could negotiate with a military wing hiding in a cave.

But those big obstacles have been overcome. Many small details that negotiators feared would derail the negotiations have also been resolved.

For the Biden administration, which is struggling to manage the political fallout from the Gaza war in the United States and abroad, the hostage settlement is a failed success. Officials are happy that it looks like it will go on – but the vexing question of how this war will end becomes more important every day.

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