According to media reports, US President Joe Biden has personally asked mediators Qatar and Egypt to pressure Hamas in the Gaza Strip so that the Islamists agree to an agreement to release Israeli hostages. A proposal is on the table that calls for a six-week ceasefire and the release of 40 hostages, the news portal “Axios” reported, citing a senior US official.

According to the Times of Israel newspaper, Biden asked the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Mosa Nasser Al Missned, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in letters to urge Hamas to agree to such an agreement. According to Axios, the USA wants to help the indirect negotiations achieve a breakthrough in Cairo this weekend.

The negotiations have been going on for weeks

For this purpose, CIA Director Bill Burns is to meet in the Egyptian capital with the head of the Israeli foreign intelligence agency Mossad, David Barnea, as well as Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and the Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Abbas Kamel. For weeks, the USA, Qatar and Egypt have been mediating between Israel and Hamas in order to achieve a ceasefire and an exchange of hostages kidnapped from Israel for Palestinian prisoners. According to Israeli estimates, almost 100 people abducted by Hamas are still alive.

The hostages to be released under the agreement included Israeli soldiers and other women, men over the age of 50 and men in critical health, wrote the usually well-informed Israeli journalist Barak Ravid in his Axios report.

Upcoming round of talks in Cairo

In return, Israel would release around 700 Palestinian prisoners, including around 100 serving life sentences for killing Israelis, it said. US President Biden called on Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a phone call on Thursday to “immediately” conclude an agreement to bring back the hostages.

In the conversation, with a view to the upcoming round of talks in Cairo this weekend, Biden asked Netanyahu to send his negotiators with a broader mandate than before in order to reach an agreement, “Axios” quoted the senior US official as saying. Biden made it clear to Netanyahu that everything must be done to secure the release of the hostages who have been held in Gaza for six months.

The war was triggered by the unprecedented massacre with more than 1,200 deaths that terrorists from Hamas and other Islamist groups carried out in Israel on October 7th last year. Israel responded with massive air strikes and a ground offensive. According to the Hamas-controlled health authority, more than 33,000 people have died in Gaza. The number, which is difficult to verify independently, does not differentiate between fighters and civilians.