Israel to expand mandate of its negotiating team in hostage swap talks

Hamas demands end to Israel's offensive in Gaza in return for any hostage deal

09:51 - 23/02/2024 Friday
File photo
File photo

Israel will expand the authority given to its negotiating team during talks for a possible prisoner swap deal with Hamas, according to Israeli media on Thursday.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk during a meeting in Tel Aviv that the government will expand the mandate given to its negotiators for a hostage deal, the Israeli public broadcaster KAN reported.

“At the same time, the Israeli army is preparing to continue its intense ground operations,” he added.

David Barnea, chief of the Mossad intelligence service, heads Tel Aviv's negotiating team to the talks, joined by the US, Egypt and Qatar.

McGurk arrived in Israel on Thursday from Egypt as part of diplomatic efforts to push for a Gaza cease-fire and hostage swap deal with Hamas.

Israel estimates that at least 134 Israelis are held by Hamas following its cross-border attack on Oct. 7.

Hamas demands an end to Israel's offensive in Gaza in return for any hostage deal with Israel.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7, killing at least 29,410 Palestinians and injuring nearly 70,000 others, while less than 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85% of the territory's population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave's infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

For the first time since its creation in 1948, Israel stands accused of genocide at the International Court of Justice, the highest judicial body of the United Nations, over its Gaza war.

An interim ruling in January ordered Tel Aviv to stop genocidal acts and take measures to guarantee that humanitarian assistance is provided to civilians in Gaza.

2 months ago