Qatar to host talks between Hamas and Israel next week aimed at securing Gaza ceasefire

Terms of proposed deal would see Israel will halt its military operation for one day for each hostage released

Qatar will host mediated talks between Hamas and Israel next week with the aim of clinching a new Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on March 10th.

The announcement from Egyptian officials followed progress at talks in Paris on Friday between Israeli, American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Under the terms of the emerging framework deal, in the initial stage Israel will agree to halt its ongoing military operation for one day for each hostage released.

More than 40 women, elderly, sick and wounded hostages are expected to be set free over a six-week period. In return, Israel will release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including some hard-core militants who took part in attacks in which Israelis were killed. More humanitarian aid will enter Gaza during this period and some of the war refugees will be allowed to return to the northern Gaza Strip.


The international mediators hope that during this six-week period talks can progress towards a permanent ceasefire and the release of the remaining hostages. However, Israel is not prepared to commit to ending the fighting without the total defeat of Hamas and the militant group will not release all the hostages without an end to the war.

Despite the progress in the ceasefire talks, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said he would convene Israel’s war cabinet on Sunday night to approve plans for an operation in the southern city of Rafah, where more than a million residents fled to escape the war.

He said in an interview with CBS on Sunday that once Israel begins the military operation in Rafah, the intense phase of the fighting will be only “weeks away from completion.”

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said president Joe Biden has not seen or been briefed on Israel’s operational plans for Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population.

“We’ve been very clear about our view here. We’re talking about more than a million people who have been pushed into this small space in Gaza because of military operations elsewhere,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press.

“We’ve been clear that a major military operation should not proceed in Rafah unless there is a clear and executable plan to protect those civilians, to get them to safety and to feed, clothe and house them. And we haven’t seen a plan.”

Mr Netanyahu also told CBS that Hamas needed to make more reasonable demands if a hostage deal is to materialise.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri says the comments cast doubt over Israel’s willingness to secure a hostage deal. “Netanyahu wants to pursue negotiations under bombardment and the bloodshed” of Palestinians in Gaza, he said.

As the fighting continued, Israel said it had killed dozens of militants in the southern city of Khan Younis. It also declared the end of its operation in the city’s Nasser hospital, where it had arrested some 200 suspected militants in recent weeks.

More than 29,500 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas attack on October 7th and more than 250 kidnapped, 134 of whom are still in Gaza.

Unrwa, the United Nations refugee agency says it has paused aid deliveries to northern Gaza because convoys are being looted by desperate residents. Hospitals in northern Gaza are running out of fuel, leaving medical refrigerators used to store crucial medicine without electricity, while generators and ambulances are also running out of fuel, leaving intensive care patients at risk of dying.

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss

Mark Weiss is a contributor to The Irish Times based in Jerusalem