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Officials say ceasefire talks have hit a snag over how many hostages will be released in the first phase, among other issues.


Negotiations between Israeli and Hamas negotiators on a ceasefire and hostage release agreement remain mired in questions over whether the ceasefire will be permanent or temporary and how many hostages will be released in the first phase of the deal, officials familiar with the matter said.

Israeli and Hamas representatives left Egypt on Thursday after the latest round of indirect talks – with no direct communication between them – but with no deal in sight, officials said. But the U.S., Egyptian and Qatari teams are still holding further discussions in Egypt.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas’s political leadership, said Hamas still demands that Israel observe a permanent ceasefire and fully withdraw its troops from Gaza as part of the truce. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel cannot end the war as long as Hamas’ rule in Gaza remains intact. On Friday, Hamas claimed that Israel’s rejection of the framework proposed by Qatar and Egypt and already approved by Hamas “brought things back to square one.”

Mr. Abu Marzouk added that another obstacle to negotiations was how many hostages held in Gaza would be released during the first phase of a multi-phase ceasefire. His account was corroborated by an Israeli official and another official with knowledge of the negotiations. Both spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic negotiations.

According to Israeli authorities, Palestinian armed groups still hold approximately 132 hostages in Gaza, the vast majority of whom were seized during the Hamas-led attack on October 7. But Israel said it had confirmed at least 36 deaths.

Israel initially demanded that Hamas release 40 hostages during the first phase of the ceasefire, including old prisoners, patients and women, civilians and soldiers. Male Israeli soldiers considered by Hamas to be prisoners of higher value will be released during the second phase of the truce.

A recent Israeli proposal yielded concessions that reduced the number of live hostages Israel requested for the first batch to 33, according to to officials familiar with the talks.

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said on Monday that Hamas did not have enough live hostages to reach a phase one deal and said the 33 hostages handed over would include both live and those who died in captivity. They have no right to speak publicly.

But Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said that during this week’s meeting in Egypt, mediated in part by CIA Director William J. Burns, an Israeli negotiating team stated that Hamas must release 33 hostages in the first phase. An official briefed on the talks. Mr. Abu Mazuk said that if the group was unable to raise that number, Israel would ask them to release some of the captured male Israeli soldiers.

On Friday, Egypt’s foreign ministry said both Israel and Hamas needed to “show flexibility” in negotiations in order to “reach an armistice and end the humanitarian tragedy.”

Aaron Boxerman Contributed reporting.

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