The adoption of an agreement on the release of Israeli hostages seemed certain at the end of the day on Tuesday. The information, which had been circulating as a rumor for a week, took shape over the course of the day. The announcement of an Israeli government meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. local time, provided official confirmation of these rumors: it was necessary to officially validate the terms of the agreement. A little earlier, while visiting soldiers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped for “good news soon”.
The same morning, it was Ismaël Haniyeh, leader of Hamas in exile in Qatar, who indicated in a press release that he was “approaching the conclusion of a truce agreement”. Islamic Jihad, another militia involved in the kidnappings, reportedly approved the terms of the deal. The day before, Monday evening, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross met with leaders of Qatar, as well as Ismaël Haniyeh. The organization, which says it is not participating in the talks, could play a role in the process of freeing the hostages in the coming days. Finally, the White House declared that it had “never been so close” to an agreement.
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What can it be about? Probably, initially, on the release of 50 Israeli women and children against that of Palestinian women and minors detained in Israeli prisons, with the exception of those who were convicted of murder, against an Israeli hostage. It could be done in stages: around ten Israeli hostages released each day. And be accompanied by as many days of truce in the Gaza Strip. Hamas is also reportedly requesting the delivery of more gasoline, officially to power hospital electrical generators. This is a potential sticking point because Israel has feared since the start of the war that fuel delivered for humanitarian purposes would be diverted by the Islamist militia. In the Gaza Strip the civilian population is exhausted, demoralized by 46 days of war. Deprived of everything, she does not dare hope for the announcement of a ceasefire. This could come into force on Thursday, after validation, on Wednesday, of the government's decision by the Supreme Court.
This agreement is not unanimous within the coalition government of Benjamin Netanyahu. Two prominent ministers have expressed their reluctance: Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, both leaders of religious Zionist, Jewish supremacist and colonialist parties. “The State of Israel is going to make another very, very big mistake, of the same kind as that of the “deal” on the release of Shalit,” launched Itamar Ben Gvir on Tuesday. The Minister of National Security refers to the 2011 agreement, during which the Franco-Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was released in exchange for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners, including Yahya Sinwar. The current leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip is presented as the mastermind behind the October 7 terrorist attack, during which 1,300 Israelis were killed and some 240 kidnapped. But these two ministers should not be able to derail the deal.
During an exchange Tuesday afternoon with journalists from the international press, the director of the negotiation cell in the Israeli Prime Minister's office described a complex situation. He notably mentioned the competition between two of the main goals of this war, from the Israeli point of view: on the one hand the destruction of the military capabilities of Hamas, on the other the release of the hostages. Which should prevail? Within the Israeli war council, we would find two opposing tendencies. One, behind Benjamin Netanyahu, would attach more importance to the destruction of the Islamist movement. The other, behind Benny Gantz, upon the release of the hostages. “In a negotiation, you have to know what the other party can give you,” he also recalled. However, according to this source, Yahya Sinwar has limited room for maneuver: Islamic Jihad can decide to denounce the agreement. Furthermore, hostages would be in the hands of much less maneuverable “warlords”.
While waiting for an official announcement, the relatives of the hostages wait in anguish. Who will be released? Who will remain in the hands of Hamas? “We have no illusions,” sighs Yair Moses with a detached air. Both of his parents, Margalit, 77, and Gadi, 79, were kidnapped on October 7 while residing in Kibbutz Nir Oz, very close to the Gaza Strip. “We are waiting for the moment to have something concrete… We hope, of course, but we don’t want to talk about it,” he says cautiously. The priority given to women and children is seen as a scandal by the mother of Avinatan, 30: “Anyone who accepts such an agreement condemns my son,” she laments to the Israeli media Ynet. “There will be no second chance,” she fears.
Yaël Ben Ezra shares this opinion: “all the hostages should return immediately,” she believes. However, “if it is possible to save children, and perhaps mothers, I support this initiative,” she explains. His father was killed by around ten bullets on October 7 and his mother, aged 72, was taken to Gaza. On social networks, a video circulated which showed her, barefoot, in pajamas, terrified, stuck between two terrorists on a motorcycle speeding towards the enclave. Since then, Yaël has been experiencing a “nightmare”. And has little hope: “I don’t think my mother will be included in this agreement.”
If Paris is not directly involved in the negotiations to obtain the release of the hostages, it is “following the progress” as closely as possible, the Quai d’Orsay says. “For everyone, it is the Qataris who are in charge,” admits a diplomatic source, “but we are not very far away and it is clear that things are changing.” France, which still has eight missing nationals, was able to confirm the hostage status of several of them, including “very probably three minors”. Children being a priority in the agreement between Israel and Hamas, “we have hopes” about their imminent release, it is emphasized.
At the same time, France dispatched the Dixmude helicopter carrier this Monday, which is due to dock at el-Arish, an Egyptian port north of the Sinai, in five days. It will first stop at Larnaca, on the island of Cyprus, to take on board 22 civilian doctors mobilized under the health reserve - a first. There are sixteen surgeons and six pediatric specialists.
Faced with “the objectively catastrophic situation” in the Gaza Strip, overwhelmed by 30,000 injured according to NGOs and the UN, Paris dispatched 110 tons of humanitarian cargo, 50% of which has already entered the Gaza Strip.
Philippe Gélie, deputy editorial director of Le Figaro