A deal between Israel and the militant group Hamas to release some hostages could be reached in the coming days, although no terms have yet been finalized, according to several U.S. officials.
“We believe we are closer than we have been, perhaps at any time since these negotiations began weeks ago,” US deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer said on Sunday. on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Officials have been tight-lipped when speaking publicly about the hostage negotiations, due to the sensitive and malleable nature of the talks. They succeeded clearBut nothing is definitively settled.
For example, White House officials rejected the premise of a Washington Post article reported Saturday that a “tentative deal” had been reached. The Post, citing sources close to the negotiations, said Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement to release about 50 Hamas hostages and that in exchange Israel would temporarily suspend its combat operations for five days.
After the article was published, White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson job on X, formerly Twitter, to clarify that no such agreement had been officially reached. La Poste did not publish a correction but ultimately amended the title of the article to state that the agreement was “done” rather than provisionally concluded.
Hamas is currently holding around 240 hostages. Many hostages are believed to come from foreign countries, including a dozen Americans. Hamas released four hostages after earlier negotiations mediated by Qatar.
As the current deal appears to move closer to a final version, here are some lingering questions and what we know so far.
When could a deal be reached?
The timetable for the deal appears to have become a matter of hours and days, not weeks.
Israeli Ambassador Michael Herzog told ABC’s “This Week” that “a significant number of hostages” could be released “in the coming days.”
Deputy National Security Advisor Finer outlined that timeline in his CNN interview, noting that the United States was working intensively “over the coming hours and days” to reach an agreement.
It is not certain that an agreement will be reached this week – various factors could disrupt and prolong the negotiations. But Herzog and Finer expressed optimism on Sunday that the talks were close to bearing fruit.
“The less detail we go into, the better the chances of reaching such an agreement, but these are very serious efforts,” Herzog said.
What is the delay?
Negotiations are reportedly in their final stages and are now focused on resolving more minor details.
Qatari Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said At a Sunday news conference, many major points of contention were resolved in the hostage deal and all that remains is to sort out logistical terms.
Negotiations have stalled at various points in recent weeks. For example, in end of Octobertalks broke down after Hamas refused to cooperate until Israel allowed fuel into Gaza.
The biggest sticking points have been resolved, according to Finer: “There are areas of divergence that have been reduced, if not completely resolved. »
How many hostages would be released?
Finer said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that the deal would “certainly” lead to the release of “more than dozens” of hostages.
Would an agreement lead to a ceasefire?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel will not begin considering a ceasefire until all Hamas hostages have been released.
With the current deal, Israel is only considering a temporary pause in attacks that would allow the safe passage of freed hostages, not a comprehensive ceasefire.
“We are considering suspending the fighting for a few days so we can get the hostages out. So this is not a ceasefire,” Herzog said.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered around the world in the weeks following the Hamas attack on October 7 to demand a ceasefire. As the death toll in Gaza rises, some government officials are joining the chorus of these demands. But Israeli officials, including Netanyahu and Herzog, have rejected those calls, saying a ceasefire would allow Hamas to regroup and restore its resources to launch another attack on Israel.