US-Israeli hostage talks with Hamas fail – WSJ
Negotiations involving the US, Israel and Hamas over the potential release of 50 hostages held by the militant group have fallen through, the Wall Street Journal has reported. Hamas did, however, release two US nationals on Friday, citing “humanitarian reasons.”
The WSJ on Saturday, citing several anonymous officials, claimed that the talks mediated by Qatar had been tough, and that no direct dialogue between Israel and Hamas had taken place whatsoever during the first week.
According to the outlet, the Palestinian militant group had named several preconditions including a “temporary cease-fire, the resumption of water supplies to Gaza by Israel and stepped-up humanitarian aid to the territory.” In the end, the purported deal could not be sealed, the report said.
Yet Hamas did agree to release two hostages on Friday. In a statement, the group said that “in response to Qatari efforts, Al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas’ military wing) released two American citizens for humanitarian reasons.”
The WSJ quoted an unnamed US official as confirming that Qatar’s government had been “very helpful.” The official added, however, that efforts to free the hostages are not being helped by the continued Israeli bombardment of Gaza.
According to Hamas, it is currently holding approximately 200 people, with 50 more in the hands of several other militant groups in the enclave. Twenty captives have been killed as a result of Israeli air strikes, Hamas claims.
Earlier this week, senior Hamas official Khaled Mashaal suggested that Israeli hostages could be traded for Palestinians in Israeli jails, while foreigners would be released “when circumstances allow.”
More than 20 Americans have been reported missing following Hamas’ attack earlier this month, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday.
Renewed conflict between Hamas and Israel erupted on October 7 after Palestinian militants launched a massive missile barrage and a surprise incursion, with Israel retaliating using massive air strikes.
According to local officials on both sides, the latest round of violence has left over 4,000 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis dead, with thousands more wounded. The United Nations and human rights groups have warned of a looming humanitarian disaster in Gaza.