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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Israel rules out freeing thousands of prisoners in hostage deal

A woman passes by a wall with photos of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 30, 2024, in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Israeli prime minister's office referred to as "constructive" the recent high-level talks on a proposed pause in fighting in Gaza, as well the release of Israeli hostages held there. The potential deal, which is being brokered by Qatar and Egypt, would also entail the release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel and other conditions.   (Amir Levy/Getty Images Europe/TNS)
By Alisa Odenheimer Bloomberg News

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out the freeing of thousands of prisoners or pulling troops out of Gaza as part of any hostage-exchange or cease-fire deal with Hamas.

“We will not withdraw the IDF from the Gaza Strip, and we will not release thousands of terrorists. None of this will happen,” Netanyahu said in a speech to young men at a pre-army preparatory program on Tuesday.

The prime minister reiterated that Israel won’t conclude its war against Hamas without achieving all of its goals: eliminating the Iran-backed group, securing the return of all remaining hostages and ensuring that Gaza will never again constitute a threat to Israel.

Netanyahu was responding to a report by Israel’s Channel 12, which said a prisoner-for-hostage exchange was discussed by officials from Qatar, Egypt, the U.S. and Israel over the weekend to try and secure a cease-fire to the near four-month war.

Hamas is still holding more than 100 people in Gaza who were taken during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel which triggered the conflict. About 110 were returned during a seven-day cease-fire that ended Dec. 1, a deal made in exchange for about three times as many Palestinian prisoners.

A Channel 12 reporter said in a post on Telegram on Monday that the cease-fire deal under discussion in Paris at the weekend was for the release of 100-250 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for each hostage. In the first stage, 35 hostages would be released over a period of 45 days.

Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said on Telegram that the group, which is classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union, is studying the Paris Summit proposal. Their priority is stopping the war and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip, he said.