There is a potential breakthrough in the ongoing hostage negotiations between Israel and the militant group Hamas, according to several U.S. officials. Although no terms have been finalized yet, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer stated on CNN’s “State of the Union” that they are closer than ever before to reaching an agreement. However, it is crucial to note that officials have been cautious in their public statements, given the sensitive nature of the talks, and nothing has been officially decided.
Contrary to a Washington Post article claiming that a “tentative deal” had been reached, White House officials denied the existence of any official agreement. The negotiations continue to evolve, and no clear outcome has been achieved. The original headline of the article was later revised to reflect that the deal was “close.” It is critical to consider that both sides have refrained from confirming any tentative arrangement, underscoring the fluidity and complexity of the negotiations.
Currently, Hamas holds approximately 240 hostages, including a dozen Americans. Hamas released four hostages earlier after negotiations mediated by Qatar. If the current deal progresses, the release of a significant number of hostages could occur in the coming days as stated by Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog on ABC’s “This Week.” Deputy National Security Advisor Finer also suggested a similar timeframe during his CNN interview. While reaching a deal this week is not definitive and unforeseen circumstances may prolong the negotiations, both Herzog and Finer exuded optimism regarding the ongoing talks.
According to Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, the negotiations are in their final phase, with most major points of disagreement already resolved. The focus now primarily rests on settling logistical terms. Although there have been occasional roadblocks throughout the weeks of negotiations, including a breakdown when Hamas demanded fuel to enter Gaza, Finer affirmed that the contentious issues have largely been narrowed down, if not resolved entirely.
The anticipated deal is expected to result in the release of a considerable number of hostages, surpassing “dozens,” according to Finer. However, it is important to recognize that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated that a ceasefire consideration would only come after the release of all Hamas’ hostages. Therefore, the current proposal suggests a temporary halt to attacks to ensure the safe passage of the released hostages, rather than a comprehensive ceasefire. Herzog emphasized this point by clarifying that “we’re talking about pausing the fighting for a few days so we can get the hostages out. So it’s not a ceasefire.”
In response to the escalating death toll in Gaza, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide have taken to the streets demanding a ceasefire since the October 7 attack by Hamas. Some government officials have joined this plea, urging Israel to consider a ceasefire. However, Israeli officials, including Netanyahu and Herzog, have pushed back against these calls, arguing that a ceasefire would provide an opportunity for Hamas to rearm and pose a threat to Israel once again.
The ongoing hostage negotiations between Israel and Hamas seem to be inching closer to a potential deal. Though both sides remain cautious in their public statements, there is a sense of optimism that a resolution may be within reach. As the negotiations enter their final phases, the focus has shifted towards settling minor details and finalizing logistical terms. However, it is crucial to remember that the release of hostages does not guarantee an immediate ceasefire, as Israel insists on ensuring the safety of its population before considering a comprehensive cessation of hostilities.