Red Cross vehicle making its way to transport hostages
Red Cross vehicle making its way to transport hostagesAtia Mohamed/Flash 90

American-led negotiators are edging closer to an agreement in which Israel would suspend its war in Gaza for about two months in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas, The New York Times reported on Saturday night.

According to the report, negotiators have developed a written draft agreement merging proposals offered by Israel and Hamas in the last 10 days into a basic framework that will be the subject of talks in Paris on Sunday.

While there are still important disagreements to be worked out, US officials told The New York Times that negotiators are cautiously optimistic that a final accord is within reach.

In the first phase of the new deal, fighting would stop for about 30 days while women, elderly and wounded hostages were released by Hamas. During that period, the two sides would work out details of a second phase that would suspend military operations for roughly another 30 days in exchange for Israeli soldiers and male civilians being held.

The ratio of Palestinian Arabs to be released from Israeli prisons is still to be negotiated but that is viewed as a solvable issue, according to The New York Times. The deal would also allow for more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

While the agreement would not be the permanent ceasefire that Hamas has demanded for the release of all hostages, officials believe that if Israel halts the war for two months, it would likely not resume it in the same way that it has waged it until now.

The report comes as Israel and Hamas, through mediators, continue to discuss a possible hostage release deal.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Israel and Hamas broadly agree in principle that an exchange of hostages for prisoners could take place during a month-long ceasefire.

The sources added, however, that the framework plan is being held up by the two sides' differences over how to bring a permanent end to the Gaza war.

On Monday, Axios reported that Israel has given Hamas a proposal, through Qatari and Egyptian mediators, that includes up to two months of a pause in the fighting as part of a multi-phase deal that would include the release of all remaining hostages held in Gaza.

Israeli officials said they are waiting for a response from Hamas but stressed they are cautiously optimistic about the ability to make progress in the coming days.

Later, CNN reported that Israel has proposed that Hamas senior leaders could leave Gaza as part of a broader ceasefire agreement.

According to the report, Israel’s suggestion was discussed as part of broader ceasefire negotiations at least twice in recent weeks. However, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al Thani said that the Israeli idea “would never work”.