How the hostage deal happened: Negotiations stumbled, however persistence lastly received out

How the hostage deal happened: Negotiations stumbled, however persistence lastly received out

The negotiations hardly ran easily. However ultimately, persistence paid off.

Six weeks in the past, not lengthy after Hamas killed greater than 1,200 Israelis and took scores of others hostage in a shock assault, the federal government of Qatar quietly reached out to the USA to debate launch those that had been taken captive by the militant group.

However the mission demanded excessive sensitivity. It was so secret that U.S. officers established a communications cell to succeed in Hamas immediately, and saved these negotiations tightly guarded all through the U.S. authorities. Solely a handful of individuals had been conscious of the talks, in accordance with a senior White Home official.

For weeks by the cell, which allowed the small circle of negotiators to talk recurrently with out further forms, U.S. and Israeli officers would scramble to place collectively a deal that may launch dozens of hostages held by Hamas. The White Home noticed that as the one lifelike option to halt the bloody fight that has devastated the area for greater than six weeks.

The U.S. constantly pushed Hamas, with Qatar and Egypt performing as crucial intermediaries. All of the whereas, President Joe Biden and different senior U.S. officers assured distraught members of the family of hostages by emotional Zooms and in-person conferences that they had been doing every little thing they might to safe their family members’ launch.

The U.S. president was nonetheless engaged on the hostage deal as late as Wednesday in cellphone calls with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and different world leaders, stressing the significance of shifting from settlement to precise releases. Biden vowed that he wouldn’t relent till all American hostages in Gaza had been launched.

And there was a last hiccup within the settlement either side apparently had reached. Talks continued, and no hostages had been to be launched earlier than Friday.

Biden mentioned the White Home had been working tirelessly to safe the discharge of hostages because the “earliest moments of Hamas’s brutal assault.”

This account of how the hostage deal got here collectively was described by the senior White Home official and two Egyptian officers who had been granted anonymity to debate the delicate negotiations, in addition to accounts in Israeli media.

The cell to speak with Hamas had been established by Brett McGurk, the Nationwide Safety Council’s coordinator for the Center East, and Joshua Geltzer, authorized adviser to the Nationwide Safety Council. McGurk would converse each morning with Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, the Qatari prime minister, whereas Jake Sullivan, the White Home nationwide safety adviser, communicated each day along with his Israeli counterparts, with Biden being briefed all through. Additionally crucial was CIA Director Invoice Burns, who had been speaking with David Barnea, the director of Mossad, the Israeli intelligence company.

The ultimate deal that emerged this week — throughout a four-day cease-fire, Hamas would launch 50 hostages in alternate for 150 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel — was an settlement that developed solely by weeks of negotiations.

One of many earliest proposals was put ahead on Oct. 12, 5 days after the preliminary Hamas assault, and it referred to as for releasing all girls and kids held by Hamas and different Palestinian militants in Gaza, in return for liberating all Palestinian girls in Israeli prisons, in accordance with the Egyptian officers.

The Israelis rejected that preliminary proposal, but it surely “opened the door for extra talks,” one of many Egyptian officers mentioned.

In repeated conversations in late October between Biden and Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister underscored his purple line: The assaults on Gaza would stop provided that there was a hostage launch. Biden had his personal demand all through the talks: Humanitarian help needed to attain Gaza, no matter a deal.

Finally, the primary two U.S. hostages held by Hamas – Natalie and Judith Raanan – had been launched. As senior nationwide safety officers tracked their launch out of Gaza and Biden personally phoned Natalie’s father to inform him of the information, the White Home turned extra assured that the key cell set as much as speak with Hamas would work, and intensified efforts to rescue extra hostages.

Shortly after the Raanans’ launch – and simply earlier than a long-anticipated Israeli floor invasion into Gaza – the U.S. was knowledgeable that Hamas had signed off on the contours of a deal that may halt the offensive briefly whereas the ladies and kids had been launched.

However there have been a number of points, from Israel’s view: Hamas had provided no proof of lifetime of any of the hostages, nor wouldn’t it say who exactly was being held till the combating ceased. That, for Israel, wouldn’t be sufficient to cease the bottom invasion. The U.S., too, was skeptical.

Nonetheless, the negotiations continued.

Israel’s floor invasion plans had been revised so combating could possibly be paused if a hostage deal got here collectively. The talks — with messages being routed by Doha or Cairo into Gaza — veered into extremely technical particulars, and proposals flew forwards and backwards. The U.S. repeatedly pushed Hamas, with Doha because the middleman, to supply figuring out data for the ladies and kids being held. The militant group continued to refuse.

By Nov. 12, Biden had had sufficient.

He referred to as Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and demanded specifics from Hamas. For any settlement to undergo, Biden insisted, the U.S. wanted clear identifications for the estimated 50 hostages who could be freed – ages, gender, the place they had been from. In any other case, the deal wouldn’t undergo.

Shortly after that decision, Hamas produced the knowledge the U.S. had sought. Biden referred to as Netanyahu on Nov. 14 and urged the prime minister to take the deal. Netanyahu agreed to maneuver ahead. In conferences with McGurk, Netanyahu urged the U.S. to press the Qataris to nail down the ultimate phrases.

Throughout this time, the mediators had been swapping extra workable drafts of a hostage settlement. One model outlined a five-day cease-fire and the discharge of someplace between 200 to 300 Palestinian girls and kids. Israel had insisted on a two-day cease-fire and the discharge of about 100 non-Hamas Palestinians.

However Hamas then went darkish. The militant group stopped speaking with the Qataris and Egyptians, threatening to stroll from the talks after the Israeli Protection Forces entered Shifa Hospital, the most important and best-equipped medical heart in Gaza that Israel insists is being utilized by Hamas for navy functions.

“Every part was to collapse at this stage,” one of many Egyptian officers mentioned. “Hamas was offended. All of us had been offended.”

For 3 days, Egypt, Qatar and the U.S. pressured the warring sides to succeed in a compromise: 4-day cease-fire, and three Palestinian prisoners for every hostage. Egypt additionally insisted on easing Israeli restrictions on the circulate of humanitarian support. Talks resumed final Friday, and in one other dialog with the Qatari emir, Biden instructed him it was the final shot at a hostage deal and he needed to shut it now.

McGurk spent the subsequent a number of days after that decision between Biden and Al Thani hammering out the finer factors of the hostage settlement. Officers additionally crafted a option to attempt to entice Hamas to launch extra hostages than the 50 already agreed to. The universe of unresolved points continued to slim till Tuesday morning, Nov. 21, when Hamas instructed Qatari officers they had been on board.

On Wednesday, Israel’s warfare cupboard signed off.

“In current days, I’ve spoken with our good friend, US President Joe Biden and I requested his intervention in an effort to enhance the define that might be offered to you,” Netanyahu mentioned as his warfare cupboard convened. “Certainly, it has been improved to incorporate extra hostages and at a decrease price. These talks have been productive. President Biden joined within the effort and I thank him for it.”


Kim reported from Nantucket, Massachusetts, Magdy reported from Cairo and Frankel reported from Jerusalem.

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Written by bourbiza mohamed

Bourbiza Mohamed is a freelance journalist and political science analyst holding a Master's degree in Political Science. Armed with a sharp pen and a discerning eye, Bourbiza Mohamed contributes to various renowned sites, delivering incisive insights on current political and social issues. His experience translates into thought-provoking articles that spur dialogue and reflection.

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