Hamas Signals No Breakthrough in Talks on Cease-Fire With Israel: Live Updates

In a major shift, Israeli negotiators have signaled that Israel could release a group of high-profile Palestinian prisoners serving lengthy jail terms in exchange for the freedom of some of the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza, officials say.

The change in Israeli negotiating strategy, which has not been announced publicly, is significant because it could help persuade Hamas to release Israeli soldiers captured in October and agree to a deal that would temporarily pause the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

International efforts to reach a truce had stalled over Israel’s refusal to release Palestinians convicted of murder and to commit to a permanent cease-fire, two of the measures that Hamas is holding out for.

Now, Israeli negotiators have privately agreed to a U.S. proposal that would see five female Israeli soldiers released for 15 Palestinians convicted of major terrorism charges, according to two officials with knowledge of ongoing mediation efforts. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions, which came during a meeting with officials from Egypt, Qatar and the United States in Paris last week.

The idea is seen as the basis for negotiations with Hamas, which has not responded to the proposal. The Israeli government had previously avoided such a concession partly because the release of Palestinians convicted of major acts of terrorism, even in exchange for Israeli hostages, would attract significant domestic criticism.

Asked about the negotiators’ position, the office of Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, declined to comment.

Other elements of a possible deal — including the length of a cease-fire and Hamas’s demand for a complete withdrawal of Israeli military forces from Gaza — are still under discussion.

Still, the idea could add momentum to the talks, as officials race to complete a deal before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about two weeks. An Israeli delegation was expected to arrive in Qatar as soon as Monday to continue negotiations with international mediators. According to one of the officials, Israeli intelligence officers believe that Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has become more amenable in recent weeks to a deal that, in theory, would allow for only a temporary truce — hoping that it would become permanent once in place.

The idea is part of a wider U.S. proposal that would allow for the release of 40 of the roughly 100 hostages who were captured in the Oct. 7 Hamas-led attacks and believed still to be alive in Gaza. They include five female Israeli soldiers and civilians, including sick, wounded and older people. It does not include male Israeli soldiers, whose release will be the subject of a separate negotiation, one of the officials said.

Seven of the 35 civilian prisoners set to be released are women that Israel said should have been released during the last cease-fire and prisoner swap in November. For the release of those seven women, Israel has proposed releasing 21 Palestinian detainees, the same three-to-one ratio observed during the earlier exchange.

It would release more Palestinians for each of the remaining hostages, including six for every civilian man age 50 and older and 12 for every sick or wounded man. For each of the five female Israeli soldiers in captivity, Israel would release three “heavy” prisoners — those believed responsible for major attacks — and 15 others.

Israel has often agreed to lopsided prisoner exchanges in conflicts with Hamas. In 2011, it released more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure the freedom of one captured soldier, Gilad Shalit.

Julian E. Barnes contributed reporting from Washington.