ARAB AND WORLD

Sun 25 Feb 2024 8:12 am - Jerusalem Time

Paris proposal: 40 detainees in exchange for hundreds of prisoners and a 6-week truce

A state of optimism prevails in Israel following the return of the negotiating delegation from Paris. While a senior official denied that a final agreement with Hamas regarding a prisoner exchange deal was close to being reached, reports revealed understandings on a number of issues as the talks continued.


Israeli reports stated that the talks held in the French capital, Barbs, succeeded in activating efforts aimed at concluding a prisoner exchange deal between Israel and the Hamas movement and agreeing on a truce in the Gaza Strip, while the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, continues his attempts to pressure the Hamas movement by linking... Negotiations and the imminent Israeli invasion of the city of Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip.


The Israeli Ministerial Council for Political and Security Affairs met tonight by telephone, and the member ministers received updates from the negotiating delegation that returned on Saturday morning from Paris, regarding the developments witnessed in the talks. Accordingly, the cabinet voted to send an Israeli delegation to the Qatari capital, Doha, within days. Next, to continue diplomatic efforts to try to reach a deal.


According to Israeli reports, the Cabinet approved sending a low-level delegation to the Qatari capital, to continue the talks that began on Friday in Paris in an attempt to reach a prisoner exchange deal. Netanyahu had explained in a statement that the cabinet would discuss “the next steps in the negotiations” tonight.


Netanyahu said that he would invite the Israeli Ministerial Council for Political and Security Affairs (the expanded cabinet) to meet next week, “to approve operational plans for the operation in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there,” referring to a planned Israeli invasion of the area to which more than One million Palestinians.


Netanyahu stressed that "the combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of the hostages, the elimination of Hamas, and the achievement of all the goals of the war."


According to Israeli Channel 13, the most prominent points that were agreed upon in Paris relate to the exchange mechanism, the list of prisoners, the number of days of the truce, and issues related to the humanitarian aid that will be allowed into the Gaza Strip.


The most prominent matters that were agreed upon in Paris:


- The release of about 40 Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip, including women, the elderly and the sick, in exchange for the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons.

- ⁠Israeli agreement to release a larger number of prisoners than previously agreed upon, in exchange for the release of “certain categories” of Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip.

- A 6-week truce in the Gaza Strip

- Israeli readiness to discuss the release of prisoners liberated in the “Shalit deal” who were re-arrested by the occupation during the recent period, according to what the channel reported from a foreign source.

- Israeli agreement to show flexibility on humanitarian issues - whether with regard to the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip or with regard to the return of residents to the northern Gaza Strip.

- Israel will not commit to ending the war or to a permanent ceasefire.

In turn, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority (“Kan 11”) stated that the exchange equation would be 10 Palestinian prisoners on average, for every Israeli prisoner who would be released, while it indicated that the truce equation would be one day for every Israeli prisoner who would be released.


According to the Walla website, the first phase of the exchange deal will include Israeli female soldiers, and that different numbers of prisoners will be released for each Israeli prisoner, based on the “category of the prisoner,” as a larger number of prisoners will be released in exchange for female soldiers, and that may It includes prisoners with high sentences.


According to the Ynet website, the deal will include the release of between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, in exchange for 35 to 40 Israeli detainees in the Gaza Strip. While no official Israeli body has confirmed that the talks have led to an agreement on the number or names of the prisoners who will be released.


A high-ranking Israeli official said, this evening, Saturday, that Israel is still far from reaching a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas, within the framework of the new round of negotiations that took place in the French capital, Paris, stressing that “Hamas has backed down from some of its demands.”


The statements of the Israeli official, who appears to be from circles close to the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, came in a media briefing, following the return of the Israeli negotiating delegation, this morning, from Paris, amid reports of “progress” in the discussions.


The Israeli official said, "We are still far from reaching a deal, but Hamas has backed down from some of its demands, following the firm positions expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu."


'Cautious optimism'


Earlier today, the Israeli media reported that the Israeli delegation returned from Paris with “cautious optimism” about the possibility of moving forward towards reaching an agreement before the month of Ramadan.


The Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (“Kan 11”) quoted sources familiar with the negotiations as saying, “A new framework was agreed upon during the Paris talks. There is progress and the agreement could be signed soon. The negotiations should not take a long time.”


"Kan 11" reported that "Israel received messages from mediators indicating that Hamas is interested in moving forward with the negotiations," and an Israeli official indicated "progress on the issue of releasing (Palestinian) prisoners, and soon the names will be discussed as well."

However, the official stressed the need to maintain “transparency” in dealing with the families of Israeli prisoners in the Gaza Strip, considering that “in the end, we are conducting negotiations with a terrorist organization and everything can change.”


The Israeli "war cabinet" is scheduled to meet this evening, so that the negotiating delegation can inform it of the latest developments. Meanwhile, the Walla website, citing two informed sources, said that “the Paris talks witnessed progress on the issues of the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners” who will be included in the first phase of the agreement, which consists of three stages.


Israeli reports unanimously agreed that the negotiations were generally "good and positive" and witnessed a reduction in gaps on a number of issues, including details related to the release of Israeli detainees in the Gaza Strip in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and the days of the truce.


Despite the optimism prevailing in Israel, there are no confirmations from Hamas, which did not participate in the Paris talks, that it may accept the broad lines that were agreed upon. Israeli reports stated that the talks will continue in the coming days.


For his part, Hamas leader Abdel Rahman Shadid told Al-Arabi TV, saying: “We are neither a part nor a party in the Paris meetings, and we have not been informed of any progress, and this is a unilateral announcement.”


Other Hamas sources added, "The facts indicate that Israel has backed away from its commitments in the previous Paris meeting, and we have no information about the Paris meeting or the existence of positive indicators in the occupation's positions."


As part of the discussions in Paris, on Friday, the head of the Mossad, David Barnea, met with the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), William Burns, the head of the Qatari government, Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman Al Thani, and the head of Egyptian intelligence, Abbas Kamel.


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Paris proposal: 40 detainees in exchange for hundreds of prisoners and a 6-week truce