The fragile truce between Israel and Hamas collapsed on Friday morning because the adversaries could not find common ground for further exchanges of hostages and prisoners, according to Israeli and Hamas officials.
Publicly, Israel and Hamas blamed each other for military activity that violated the weeklong cease-fire. Israel said Hamas had fired rockets from Gaza into southern Israel, while Hamas said Israeli troop operations had resumed in northern Gaza. But two Israeli officials and Zaher Jabareen, a Hamas official who oversees prisoner issues, said the real reason the pause ended was a stalemate in prisoner-hostage swap negotiations.
Israel signaled on Saturday that it was ending its involvement in talks for now. A statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said that David Barnea, the head of the Mossad spy agency that was negotiating for the Israeli government, had ordered his team to return to Israel from the talks in Qatar.
Mr. Netanyahu had hoped for at least one more round of exchanges, said the Israeli officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.
Hamas had begun suggesting deals that would release more Palestinians from Israeli jails, including higher-profile detainees, in exchange for the remaining hostages held in Gaza, who include Israeli soldiers. But Israeli officials have made it clear that they want all women and children held in Gaza released before they will discuss exchanges of other captives.
The return to war after seven days of a temporary cease-fire left the fate of dozens of hostages in question.
Hamas and other militants were believed to have kidnapped more than 200 people on Oct. 7 in an attack that left some 1,200 people dead, the Israeli authorities said. Over the course of a week, 81 Israelis and dual nationals, along with 24 foreigners, taken captive in the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault on Israel were set free, as were 240 Palestinians from Israeli prisons. The foreigners were freed as part of negotiations separate from the cease-fire arrangement.
The overnight negotiations aimed at further extending the truce, headed by Qatar and aided by Egypt and the United States, included discussions of at least one proposal to follow the formula used over the last week, in addition to increasing aid deliveries to Gaza.
The sides gave differing accounts for why there was no agreement.
Mr. Jabareen said in a phone interview that Hamas said it considered some of the women on Israel’s proposed list of hostages to be released to be soldiers.
Mr. Jabareen said Hamas had made three other proposals, all of which involved small numbers of Israelis in exchange for dozens of Palestinian prisoners. Previous exchanges during the seven-day truce generally called for the release of three Palestinian prisoners for every hostage freed.
One proposal included Hamas trading what it said were the bodies of the mother and two children from the Bibas family for a few dozen Palestinians detained by Israel since 2014, Mr. Jabareen said.
Hamas announced this week that the three — Shiri Bibas, 32; Ariel Bibas, 4; and Kfir Bibas, 10 months old — had been killed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. The Israeli military has said it is seeking to verify the information.
Hamas also proposed exchanging the family’s father, Yarden Bibas, who the group says is still alive, for a few dozen of the longest-serving Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, including some held since the ’80s, Mr. Jabareen said.
Another Hamas proposal would have required both sides to release all captives over age 60, and another roughly 130 Palestinian prisoners, many of them detained in the aftermath of Hamas’s surprise Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.
Israel rejected all those proposals, Mr. Jabareen said.
“It is clear that we are heading toward the continuation of the aggression and that there is no horizon for continuing with cease-fires and prisoner swaps,” he said.
A person with knowledge of the negotiations said that the final offer from Hamas included the bodies of the three Bibases, Mr. Bibas, and six other women, children and older people. Israel rejected that offer because it wanted to secure the release of all living women and children first, the person said.
One of the Israeli officials said that disagreements over how to define civilians versus soldiers had contributed to the stalemate. Hamas considered Israeli women who are of military age or were captured near military bases to be military captives, as well as men in their late 40s or 50s, because they could serve in the reserves, the official said.
The Israeli authorities said on Friday night that the collapse of the cease-fire had also temporarily stopped the flow of crucial aid deliveries into Gaza; deliveries resumed at the urging of the United States, but at a level lower than during the truce. The deliveries included no fuel — only food, water and medical equipment — and the shipments were inspected before entering Gaza, they said.
The failure of the cease-fire talks came as competing pressures were building on Mr. Netanyahu. International calls have grown to end the war, which the United Nations says has displaced 80 percent of Gaza’s population of roughly 2.2 million, and which the territory’s health authorities say has killed more than 13,000. Many in Israel have also called on the government to do all it can to bring the remaining captives home.
Mr. Netanyahu also faces pressure from far-right members of his own government to keep fighting Hamas, which Israel has vowed to destroy.
Aaron Boxerman contributed reporting from Jerusalem, and Erica L. Green from Washington.
Dec. 1, 2023
An earlier version of this item incorrectly stated the number of Palestinians released thus far from jail. It was 240, not 180.
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