Hamas Is Discussing Proposal for a 6-Week Cease-Fire, Official Says: Live Updates
Hamas Is Discussing Proposal for a 6-Week Cease-Fire, Official Says: Live Updates

Hamas’s political chief said on Tuesday that the group was considering a proposal to pause the fighting in Gaza and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners, a potentially promising sign for a deal that was immediately followed by a reminder of the hurdles ahead.

The Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, suggested his openness to a deal in a statement, but stuck to longstanding demands for the total withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, which the Israeli leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, immediately rejected.

Representatives from four nations — the United States, Qatar, Egypt and Israel — agreed over the weekend at talks in Paris to present the group with a framework that would begin with a six-week cease-fire to allow for the release of more hostages.

Mr. Haniyeh said that Hamas was studying the proposal, thanking Qatar and Egypt for their efforts, and suggested in his statement that Hamas was willing to work with the framework, if it helps achieve its demands. In addition to a permanent cease-fire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces, he said Hamas was seeking the reconstruction of Gaza, the lifting of a yearslong Israeli blockade on the territory and the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

Palestinian children near makeshift shelters in Rafah, in southern Gaza, on Tuesday.Credit…Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Mr. Netanyahu appeared to immediately push back at Mr. Haniyeh’s statements, saying that Israel would not withdraw its military from Gaza or free thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

“We will not compromise on anything less than total victory,” he said in a speech in the West Bank, according to an Israeli statement.

It was unclear whether the two men’s comments were attempts to stake out negotiating positions or to appeal to their constituencies at home. But the agreement by Hamas’s leader to even consider a proposal floated in part by Israel raised hopes that there was a possibility of a deal, even if there are still big differences between the sides.

After talks in Paris on Sunday, representatives from the four nations agreed to have Qatar present a framework to Hamas that proposes a pause in the war, during which Hamas would exchange some hostages held in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, officials said.

In the proposed framework, Hamas would release older hostages, women and children, if any are still being held and are alive, according to the officials, who said that would be the first of three potential phases of swaps.

Mr. Haniyeh added in his statement that Hamas had received an invitation to Cairo to discuss “the framework agreement from the Paris meeting.”

The officials, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive diplomacy, cautioned that the talks were at an early stage and that many details would need to be worked out if Hamas agreed to start building on the framework. The group’s political leaders, including Mr. Haniyeh, would need to convey the proposal to its military leaders — a process that could take days or longer because the military leaders are believed to be hiding in tunnels deep beneath Gaza.

Families of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza demanded an immediate deal while blocking a road near Israel’s Ministry of Defense, in Tel Aviv, on Monday.Credit…Ahmad Gharabli/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The meeting in Paris — which included the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns; Israeli security officials; and the prime minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani — came as Israel’s government has faced increased pressure over its handling of the war, which began on Oct. 7. That day, Hamas led sweeping attacks into Israel that Israeli officials said killed about 1,200 people and took about 240 more hostage, making it the worst terrorist attack in the country’s history.

More than 100 hostages were released during a weeklong pause in the fighting in November, along with 240 Palestinian prisoners and detainees held by Israel. But efforts toward another deal have so far been elusive.

Family members of those still being held in Gaza have called for an urgent deal and the International Court of Justice in The Hague last week ordered the delivery of more humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza, where health officials say more than 26,000 people have died since Israel’s military campaign began.

Sheikh Mohammed, the Qatari prime minister, said on Monday that “good progress” had been made in the negotiations. Speaking at an event hosted by the Washington-based Atlantic Council, he said that talks were the only viable path toward de-escalation, adding that the rising death toll from Israel’s campaign in Gaza was “not getting any results to get the hostages back.”