Officials Propose to Hamas a Six-Week War Pause and a Hostage-Prisoner Swap

Representatives from four nations have agreed to have Qatar present a nascent framework to Hamas that proposes a six-week pause in the war in Gaza for Hamas to exchange some hostages for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, officials say.

The talks are at an early stage, and many details would need to be worked out if Hamas agrees to start building on the framework, they said. Qatar is presenting the proposal to the political leaders of Hamas, who would convey it to the group’s military leaders, who would then send a response. That process could take days or even longer, because the military leaders are in hiding in tunnels deep beneath Gaza.

In the proposed framework, Hamas would release elderly hostages, women and children, if any are still being held and are alive, over the pause period of six weeks, said the officials, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive diplomacy. That would be the first of three potential phases of swaps.

During a seven-day pause in November, many people in those categories were among more than 100 hostages released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. But some remain in the hands of Hamas or other militant groups in Gaza.

Some Israeli officials say the number of hostages who would qualify for the first release is 30 to 35, but that is an estimate and the negotiators do not know the actual number. It is unclear if female soldiers would be included in hostages released in the tranche being discussed. That could be worked out in negotiations of details, if the talks reach that stage.

Hamas and other men from Gaza took about 240 people hostage in the terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which also resulted in about 1,200 deaths, Israeli officials said. The retaliatory Israeli military campaign, with robust weapons support from the United States, has killed about 25,000 people in Gaza, according to health ministry officials there.

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