A potential deal between Israel and Hamas to release some hostages may be on the horizon, according to U.S. officials. While no terms have been finalized yet, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer expressed optimism that they are closer to an agreement than ever before. However, officials have remained tight-lipped about the negotiations due to their sensitive nature.
Despite a Washington Post report claiming that a "tentative deal" had been reached, White House officials quickly rejected this notion. The Post eventually changed the headline to state that the deal was "close" rather than tentatively complete. Currently, Hamas is holding approximately 240 hostages, including about a dozen Americans.
The timeline for reaching a deal seems to be a matter of hours and days rather than weeks. Israeli ambassador Michael Herzog stated that "a significant number of hostages" could be freed in the coming days. Both Herzog and Finer expressed optimism that the talks were nearing fruition.
The negotiations are said to be in their final phase, with the focus now on working out minor details. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stated that most major points of contention have been resolved, and only logistical terms remain to be settled. Finer also mentioned that areas of disagreement have been narrowed down or resolved entirely.
While the exact number of hostages to be released is uncertain, Finer stated that it would be more than dozens. It is important to note that a potential deal would only result in a temporary pause in attacks to allow for the safe passage of released hostages, not a complete cease-fire.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has emphasized that a cease-fire will only be considered once all of Hamas' hostages have been released. Israeli officials argue that a cease-fire would give Hamas the opportunity to regroup and rearm for future attacks.
As the negotiations continue, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators around the world have called for a cease-fire. However, Israeli officials have rejected these demands, citing concerns about Hamas' intentions and the need to ensure the safety and security of Israeli citizens.