US officials have been trying to broker a deal between Israel and Hamas and believe they are close to a deal that would see at least a five-day pause in fighting and allow the release of at least 50 women and children, according to an initial count. People familiar with the ongoing talks said. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss A sensitivity issue.
Neither the US nor Israel speak directly to Hamas, which is represented in Qatar’s discussions. At a press conference in Doha on Sunday, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said the remaining “challenges” in the negotiations were “very small” and mostly logistical.
After weeks of “ups and downs” in negotiations, he said, “we are now very confident that we are close to reaching an agreement that will bring people safely home.”
“These talks have reached a critical stage,” White House deputy national security adviser John Feiner said Sunday on ABC. “Significant progress has been made in recent hours, including recent days. Some of the issues … have now been narrowed down or an understanding has been reached, but it’s not complete.
“Until people actually start moving and releasing, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves because things could still get derailed at the last minute.” But based on “representations” from Hamas, the administration believes there is a “significant number of hostages who could be released if this deal is concluded.”
The Washington Post previously reported that negotiators had drawn up a six-page document outlining when, where and how the hostages would be safely evacuated from Gaza. The agreement, which will see a temporary cessation of hostilities, will allow for a significant increase in the amount of humanitarian aid entering the enclave. The hope is that if the initial freeze on militant replacements and the release of women and children goes smoothly, it will establish a template that allows for the release of other captive groups, including civilians and Israeli soldiers, in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. Held in Israel.
During the talks in Doha, Hamas indicated that it was not in control of the 239 hostages that Israel says it holds. They were captured when the militants launched a brutal attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,200. Other militant groups in Gaza, including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have used Hamas’ push through Israeli security to enter small communities near the border and take some hostages, US officials have said.
Key points of the deal – a several-day freeze on hostilities that would allow the release of women and children and the acceleration of humanitarian aid, including fuel – were reached with Hamas last week, but Israel has so far been reluctant. Agree to anything like a cease-fire until the goal of destroying Hamas inside Gaza is achieved.
But that position now appears to have changed, with Israel insisting that a ceasefire and a ceasefire are two different things. “We are against a ceasefire because it would allow Hamas to retain power, regroup, rearm and strike again,” Herzog said.
“We are talking about a pause in the fighting for a few days so that the hostages can be evacuated,” he said.
Senior administration officials described the release of an American mother and daughter several weeks ago as a small-scale template for the larger movement now envisioned. During that operation, Israel agreed to cease fire in a certain area inside Gaza for several hours while the International Committee of the Red Cross captured the two captives and took them across the border to Israel.
It was unclear whether the hostages selected for release included nine U.S. citizens and one U.S. permanent resident or several dozen foreign nationals held captive.