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Israel, Hamas near deal to release 70 women, children held hostage for five-day truce

Israel and Hamas are close to reaching a deal that would see the exchange of Palestinian prisoners for most of the Israeli women and children held hostage in Gaza — as well as the promise of a five-day truce in the conflict.

The agreement could be announced within days once the final details are ironed out, a high-ranking Israeli official told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius.

“The general outline of the deal is understood,” the official, who requested anonymity, added.

While Israel has asked for the release of all 100 women and children currently held hostage, the number is likely to be much smaller.

Hamas officials have indicated they are ready to release 70 women and children, according to a statement from a Hamas spokesperson.

Leaders of the terror organization on Monday said they told Qatari mediators they were ready to release up to 70 women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day truce with Israel, stipulating that the brief ceasefire would have to allow for humanitarian relief to enter Gaza.

“Last week there was an effort from the Qatari brothers to release the enemy captives from women and children, in return for the release of 200 Palestinian children and 75 women detained by the enemy” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for the armed wing of Hamas, al-Qassam Brigades, said in an audio recording posted on the group’s Telegram channel.

Ubaida argued Israel was “procrastinating and evading” the cost of the prisoner exchange.

“The truce should include a complete ceasefire and allow aid and humanitarian relief everywhere in the Gaza Strip,” he added.

Hamas took some 240 hostages during their horrifying Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel, in which they killed over 1,200 people who were mainly civilians and young people enjoying an outdoor musical festival.

As a result, Israel declared war and has relentlessly bombarded Gaza ever since, killing at least 11,000 people and displacing over 1.6 million from their homes.

The number of Palestinian prisoners that would be released remains unclear, though there are at least 120 currently imprisoned, according to an Arab official who spoke with WaPo.

Israel wants confirmation that hostages in Gaza are being released as it exchanges prisoners. The verification process was one of the details still being negotiated on Monday.

The number of Palestinian prisoners that would be released remains unclear, though there are at least 120 currently imprisoned, according to an Arab official who spoke with WaPo.

The Israeli official stressed that leaders are committed to freeing all Israelis currently held hostage, which they believe to include about 90 male civilians and a small number of soldiers.

“We want as many as possible, as quickly as possible, and no one stays behind,” he said.

Hamas has insisted to Qatar that it only seized Israeli soldiers, a claim Israeli officials have rejected as false.

While Hamas holds the “vast majority” of the captives, some are kept by other groups, though Hamas has the power to negotiate for the release of all of them.

A smaller group called Palestinian Islamic Jihad holds about 35 hostages, and a militia known as the “shabiha,” as well as other smaller groups hold a few dozen others, the Israeli official said.

On Sunday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there “could be” a potential deal to release some of the hostages.

When asked about the potential deal on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Netanyahu said, “There could be, but I think the less I saw about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes.”

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