Negotiations are advancing for an agreement to pause the Israel-Hamas war and free civilian hostages captured by the Palestinian militant group, people familiar with the matter said, in a deal that those involved believe could be a crucial step toward ending the four-month conflict.

The people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations, said conversations were still in the early stages and a breakthrough wasn’t expected in the coming days. Even so, they said the proposal — which would amount to the longest pause and the biggest hostage release since the war began on Oct. 7 — had a realistic chance of success and could lead to a longer-term cease-fire.

After spy chiefs and top officials from Qatar, Egypt, the United States and Israel agreed on a framework in Paris over the weekend, Qatar presented Hamas with a proposal that would see a 45-day pause and the release of some Palestinian prisoners in exchange for all the women, children and elderly Israeli hostages, according to one official briefed on the talks.