Skip to content

Israeli media reported last night that the war cabinet voted to send a delegation back to hostage talks—though reports are contradictory as to whether those talks would be in Paris or Doha—after progress was reported on Feb. 23 in Paris. “The Israeli war cabinet decided to send a delegation to Doha in the coming days for follow up talks on the humanitarian aspects of the hostage deal, a source familiar with the issue told me,” Israeli journalist Barak Ravid reported on X, yesterday afternoon. “He said the talks will be technical & the Israeli delegation will have a limited mandate.”

“We are working to obtain another framework outline for the release of our hostages,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote in a post on X on Feb. 24. “That is why I sent a delegation to Paris—and tonight we will discuss the next steps in the negotiations,” he stated.

But Netanyahu is not backing down from continuing into Rafah, his post went on: “Therefore, at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there. Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s objectives.”

A senior Israeli source told the Jerusalem Post that the two sides were still far apart “from a deal” to secure the return of the remaining 134 hostages held in Gaza, but that Hamas has “dropped some of its demands following the hardening of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s positions.” Israel has insisted that any deal must allow for the IDF to complete its military campaign against Hamas.

According to the Kan public broadcaster, the outline includes one day of ceasefire for each hostage released, namely six weeks of ceasefire. For every hostage liberated, 10 Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli jails. Israel would also agree to pull out of the north of the Gaza Strip. The issue of expanding humanitarian aid is a relatively easy issue to compromise on, although details are not clear yet as to what is included in the new outline.

A Palestinian official briefed on the talks said that the Israelis, in Paris, had been “vague” about their Gaza endgame. “While Israel is focusing on an attempt to turn any agreement into a prisoner-swap deal, Hamas insists that any agreement must be based on a commitment by the Israeli occupation to end the war and pull its forces from the Gaza Strip,” the official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. “This is the priority as far as Hamas is concerned.”

National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi told Israel’s Channel 12 earlier last night that the negotiating team led by Mossad chief David Barnea has indicated that it did not return empty handed. “From what I’ve heard in the last few hours, it will be possible to make progress,” he said, reported Times of Israel.

Hanegbi says that Netanyahu’s key principles for a deal, conveyed to the Paris talks, included that “any framework must deal with [the return] of all the hostages”—including those who are dead; that it must provide for “all women and children” to be returned at the start of the process; and that the agreement “can in no way be interpreted” as providing for an end to the war. If it is the case that these terms did not cause the mediators to “fall off their chairs,” says Hanegbi, “then apparently it would be possible to progress.”

Regarding Israel’s determination to tackle Hamas in its last remaining stronghold, the southern city of Rafah, and U.S. concerns about civilians sheltering there, Hanegbi said: “The Americans are with us, all in,” on the principle of destroying Hamas.

Hamas seems to have said little, so far, beyond indicating a wait-and-see attitude. “We will be updated on the results of the Paris discussions within hours,” Hamas leader Mohammed Nazzal told Al-Arabi after the news first broke of “progress” in Paris. “We will continue the indirect negotiation process through the Qatari and Egyptian mediators. The coming hours will reveal whether we are on a path that leads to a ceasefire before Ramadan or not.”