IDF soldiers in Gaza
IDF soldiers in GazaIDF Spokesperson

The Wall Street Journal reports from diplomats involved in mediating the talks that the US, Egypt and Qatar are urging Israel and Hamas to join a phased diplomatic process that would start with a release of hostages and, eventually, lead to a withdrawal of Israeli forces and an end to the war in Gaza.

The new proposal has not been agreed to by either side to the conflict, as it contradicts the declared positions of Israel and Hamas. Taher Al-Nono, a media adviser to Hamas, said no real progress has been achieved and Israeli officials didn’t respond to a request for comment.

But some involved in the talks have said that Israel and Hamas were at least willing to engage again in discussions after talks were stalled at the end of the last ceasefire on Nov. 30. It was reported that negotiations are due to continue in Cairo in coming days.

One of these people said that “willingness” was a positive step and mediators are now working to "bridge the gap."

WSJ noted that according to the new proposal, which would allegedly help defuse the conflict, the release of Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas would be part of a comprehensive deal that could lead to an end to hostilities.

In November, a pause in fighting lasted a week and was accompanied by an exchange of 100 Israeli hostages in Gaza for more than 300 convicted terrorists held by Israel. Hamas used the time to plant explosives and return though its tunnel web to northern Gaza.

Hamas, on the other hand, is seeking to gain maximum advantage from the captives it holds, and only wants to trade them for thousands of terrorists and a permanent ceasefire. Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar believes that the Israelis will prioritize hostages over the battlefield and that Hamas needs to hold out as long as possible to exhaust Israel and keep international pressure on it, the officials said. Sinwar is willing to release hostages but wants a longer ceasefire and better terms than last time, the officials said.

Hamas took around 240 hostages in a surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7 that left another 1,200 people dead. Some of those killed were tortured and raped. Israeli officials have said the attack profoundly changed Israeli society and have vowed to destroy Hamas and kill its leaders.

The US, Egypt and Qatar, which all support this proposal, regard another hostage deal as the key to bringing a prolonged halt to the fighting. Egyptian officials say even though Israel portrays an uncompromising stance, some within the Israeli cabinet, are calling for prioritization of hostages.

Gadi Eisenkot, a former IDF general, spoke to Israel television and said: “We should say bravely that it is impossible to return the hostages alive in the near future without an agreement.”

Other senior Israeli leaders disagree, saying that only continued military pressure on Hamas will compel the group to return captives.