As the Israel-Hamas war enters its 5th month, there's renewed hope for a cease-fire Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel trying to push for a new hostage deal that he hopes could lead to an end to the war in Gaza. Hamas has responded to the latest proposal on the table.

As the Israel-Hamas war enters its 5th month, there's renewed hope for a cease-fire

As the Israel-Hamas war enters its 5th month, there's renewed hope for a cease-fire

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel trying to push for a new hostage deal that he hopes could lead to an end to the war in Gaza. Hamas has responded to the latest proposal on the table.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

What are the prospects for at least a temporary peace in Gaza?

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in Israel, trying to work out terms for Israel to stop its military campaign in Gaza.

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ANTONY BLINKEN: That offers the prospect of extended calm, hostages out, more assistance in. That would clearly be beneficial to everyone. And I think that offers the best path forward. But there's a lot of work to be done to achieve it.

MARTIN: The U.S. and Israel have been trading messages with Hamas. It is a slow negotiation, with Qatar passing notes back-and-forth. Qatar says the latest response from Hamas is, quote-unquote, "positive." And in Gaza, people in the streets are calling on Israel to accept it.

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UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Chanting in non-English language).

MARTIN: They're chanting, the people want peace right now.

INSKEEP: NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Secretary Blinken. She's in Tel Aviv. Hey there, Michele.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: Is a deal imminent?

KELEMEN: Not imminent. You know, it took Hamas well over a week to respond to the latest deal that was on the table. Both Qatar and Egypt have had a tough time getting a timely response, in part because it's just hard to communicate with Hamas leaders inside Gaza as Israel continues to pursue them. But the Qataris say that Hamas has now agreed to kind of this framework of a deal. They've offered what some are calling a counterproposal, and now we're expecting to see some more negotiations on those details.

INSKEEP: OK. What is the framework, so-called?

KELEMEN: It would be in phases, basically. The first phase would last about 45 days. That would be a period of calm. Hamas would release women and children and some elderly hostages that they've been holding since October 7, and Israel would release some Palestinian prisoners. Now, Hamas wants prisoners who are serving life sentences in Israel out of jail. They also say they've proposed some numbers, though that ratio of hostages to prisoners seems to be one of those issues that's still being negotiated.

In other phases of the deal, we might see Israeli troops repositioning and Hamas releasing female soldiers, followed by male soldiers and the bodies of dead hostages. Israel says that Hamas is holding about 31 bodies - 29 of them were taken during the October 7 attack - and it believes that there are still about a hundred hostages taken that day who are still alive.

INSKEEP: So negotiation over living hostages, over the bodies of hostages. And aside from that, isn't there a big disagreement about the longer term?

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, Hamas wants a permanent cease-fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vowing to keep fighting Hamas until Hamas is destroyed. And the U.S. is basically just hoping that if there's a pause in fighting that's long enough, it could give everyone more room for diplomacy. And there are a lot of big ideas floating around about that, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, big ideas - does this include some path forward for a Palestinian state, a two-state solution?

KELEMEN: Yeah, and a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Blinken was just in Saudi Arabia, and he says the crown prince is interested in pursuing that, but a couple of things are required first.

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BLINKEN: An end to the conflict in Gaza and a clear, credible, time-bound path to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

KELEMEN: Now, Prime Minister Netanyahu has repeatedly said he doesn't want a two-state solution, but Blinken knows that Israel does want normal ties with the Saudis and needs Arab states to support a postwar Gaza. So he'll be talking about all of that here with Netanyahu.

INSKEEP: NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen in Tel Aviv. Michele, thanks, as always, for your insights.

KELEMEN: Thank you.

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