It looks like Hamas realizes that is is outmatched by Israel’s military power, and is getting desperate. According to recent reports, Hamas is now offering to release civilian hostages in exchange for a short, five-day ceasefire.
“Although the terms have varied in recent weeks, Hamas has indicated most recently that it would release all civilian hostages in exchange for a five-day pause, according to diplomats familiar with the discussions who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive matter. Israeli military captives, whose precise number is unknown, would be retained, possibly to eventually be offered in trade for Palestinian prisoners in Israel,” reports The Washington Post.
Sporadic, indirect negotiations are being held in Doha, Qatar’s capital, where they have waxed and waned depending on the tempo of Israeli strikes. With Qatari officials as go-betweens, the United States has been variously represented by Barbara Leaf, the State Department’s assistant secretary for the Near East, and White House and State Department hostage negotiators, diplomats said. Representatives of Israel’s Mossad national intelligence agency have also traveled to Doha. Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’s top political leader, who lives in Turkey, has participated, along with former leader and current head of Hamas diaspora affairs Khaled Meshaal, who lives in Qatar.
Lists of some but not all of the hostages’ names have been turned over, as Hamas maintains it still may not have located all of them, especially those who may be held by Islamic Jihad, a separate Gaza-based militant group. At various times, Hamas has said publicly, without providing any evidence, that some hostages have been killed by Israeli airstrikes.
It’s easy to hear this news and consider it a source of celebration, but considering the fact that the hostages have been the only leverage Hamas has in this situation, there’s ample reason to be suspicious of their true intentions here. Originally, they attempted a slow trickle of hostages in order to stave off a ground invasion. What are they attempting to pull off now? It seems that a five day ceasefire would be exploited to gain a tactical advantage, or it’s a trick, and they have no intention of releasing hostages at all. Hamas also demanded more humanitarian aid for civilians.
We’ve seen that scam before, too. The fact is, Hamas never misses a trick, and at the moment, it looks like Israel isn’t about to fall for the terror group’s games. According to The Washington Post, Netanyahu “rejected any effort to link hostage talks with a pause in the fighting, saying just minutes after Blinken publicly called for it that consideration of any cease-fire would happen only after all of the hostages were freed.”
Either way, the scheme reeks of desperation, and it’s clear that Israel’s military is overwhelming Hamas.