US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urges Hamas to accept proposal for a ceasefire and release of hostages
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday met with 26 representatives of 18 families in Jerusalem who have family members still held captive in Gaza.
US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, announced on Wednesday a robust initiative for a second hostage deal, aiming for an extended ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.
Addressing the UN Security Council in New York, she said, “Hamas now has a choice to make”.
“It can continue to dig tunnels, to plan for its next attack, to use civilians and civilian infrastructure as human shields, or Hamas can lay down its weapons and accept the proposal on the table to release every hostage,” she said.
Thomas-Greenfield urged the Security Council to ramp up pressure on Hamas to “make the right decision.”
Her address came in the midst of heightened diplomatic discussions at the highest levels concerning a potential deal to secure the release of the 136 hostages detained in Gaza. This included a meeting on Wednesday between US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Israeli Minister of Strategic Affairs Ron Dermer.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Sullivan met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, who was in the US to discuss the war in Gaza and their efforts to secure the immediate release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas. Sullivan thanked Sheikh Mohammed for his unwavering efforts, urging that all possible efforts be brought to bear on Hamas to secure the release of hostages without delay.
In November 2023, Egypt and Qatar mediated a deal that resulted in a weeklong ceasefire. In return, 105 out of the 253 hostages seized by terrorists during the Hamas-led attack on October 7, were released.
“The proposal on the table is strong, and it is compelling,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
“It envisions a much longer humanitarian pause than we saw in November, and it would allow for us to get the hostages out and more life-saving food, water, and medicine into Gaza”.
“These are extremely sensitive negotiations, so I would not go into all the details here,” she said. “But we can all agree that this would change the situation on the ground. It would move the parties close to the cessation of hostilities that we all desire.”
Possibility for Three-Stage Truce Deal
A senior Hamas militant told Reuters the ceasefire proposal would entail a three-stage truce. It is envisioned that in the first stage, Hamas would release the remaining civilians among hostages, namely women and elderly, followed by the release of soldiers in the second stage, and finally, the bodies of dead hostages in the third stage.
Israel is also expected to release Palestinian security prisoners, as it did in the first hostage deal. However, this time, the numbers are expected to be greater, and also include terrorists involved in the 07 October attacks.
Israel is seemingly remaining guarded about the ongoing negotiations, in contrast to the hopeful messages coming from Washington and New York. The United States, in conjunction with Qatar and Egypt, has been actively working on brokering the deal. Notably, six of the remaining captives hold dual Israeli-American citizenship.
Netanyahu meets Gaza hostage families
On Wednesday, in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with 26 relatives of 18 of the hostages. He was joined by Coordinator for the Hostages and the Missing Brig.-Gen. (res.) Gal Hirsch, National Security Council Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi, Netanyahu’s military secretary Maj.-Gen. Avi Gil, and Cabinet Secretary Yossi Fuchs.
“We are making every effort” to free the hostages, Netanyahu told the families, adding that “the more public this effort is, the more distant it is. The more discreet it is, the greater are its chances for success”.
“Naturally, and for these reasons, I am prevented from sharing with you,” he said, according to a statement released by his office.
“We are truly committed, in every sense of the word, Netanyahu maintained. “While it is too early to say how it will happen, the effort is being made at this time, at this very moment,” he said.