Negotiators near deal with Hamas to release hostages

FAN Editor

Negotiators are getting closer to an agreement with Hamas to release an initial 50 civilians in exchange for Israel allowing in more aid including fuel, coinciding with a limited pause in fighting, multiple sources told CBS News. More civilian hostage releases could potentially follow.

At this stage, there is no firm deal in hand but rather a written draft agreement that is being passed between parties who remain locked in what were described to CBS News as very difficult talks brokered with the help of the U.S. and Qatar, according to two sources familiar.

In an interview with “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan,” White House deputy national security advisor Jon Finer said that “many areas of difference that previously existed” in the hostage talks “have been narrowed,” and that the U.S. is “closer than we have been to reaching a final agreement.”

Finer said it would not be helpful to detail the developing diplomacy in public, and acknowledged the caveat that past deals had been close before collapsing. Hopes were high last week that a breakthrough in diplomacy was finally imminent, but two officials in the region cited the Israeli military move on al-Shifa hospital as having complicated diplomacy with Hamas.

A source familiar with the draft agreement told CBS News that the proposal as it stands now would involve 50 hostages being released on day one with a limited pause in fighting that would last around four days for a duration of six hours a day. If that release and pause happens as planned, there would be a second release of around 20-25 hostages, according to this source. White House officials declined to comment on the sensitive diplomacy.

In a press conference on Sunday in Doha, Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani described the remaining sticking points to the emerging deal between Israel and Hamas as “very minor” logistical matters and said the parties are “close to reaching an agreement.”

Sources familiar with the talks have said there are several recent complicating issues, including whether overhead surveillance would happen during the releases. Israel has also demanded that Hamas provide some accounting for the captives it holds or can obtain from other militant groups such as Islamic Jihad, as the total figure of more than 200 hostages remains just an estimate. Last week, two of those unaccounted for who were believed to have been hostages, Noa Marciano and Yehudit Weiss, were found dead by the IDF nearby the 45,00-square-meter al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza. The remains of those slaughtered by the terror group Hamas and other militants during the Oct. 7  attack in Israel continue to be identified.

“Obviously, Gaza is an extremely dangerous place to be a civilian, to be a hostage held at this point,” Finer told CBS’ Margaret Brennan, “so there is a time imperative.”

Finer said he wouldn’t use the phrase “running out of time,” but “we feel acutely that this should be done as soon as possible.”

Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani speaks during a press conference with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, in Doha on November 19, 2023.
Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim al-Thani speaks during a press conference with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, in Doha on November 19, 2023. AFP via Getty Images

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell last week that Israel had “strong indications” hostages were held in al-Shifa hospital, which was one of the reasons he cited for the Israeli Defense Forces’ decision to enter al-Shifa. However, Netanyahu added “if there were they were taken out.” 

The United States has not produced intelligence to confirm the assessment, but did issue downgraded intelligence last week that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a “command and control node” from al-Shifa hospital and tunnels underneath, and have used it for both weapons and hostages. 

Finer said the U.S. is still confident in its assessment, and said that the Israeli military is still “exploiting” the al Shifa facility to find further information. 

On Saturday in Manama, President Biden’s top Mideast adviser Brett McGurk described the hostage talks as intensive and ongoing before heading to Doha for meetings with the Qatar Prime Minister that night. In public comments, McGurk echoed Israel’s call for the release of a “large number of hostages” in order to lead to a “significant pause in fighting” and what he described as a “massive” surge of humanitarian relief. He acknowledged that one of Hamas’ demands has been to receive fuel and humanitarian supplies. McGurk did not make public mention of an earlier request by Hamas for the release of an undetermined number of Palestinian women and children from Israeli detention centers. 

“That’s the bargain they set,” McGurk has said from the earliest days. McGurk said the onus remains on Hamas to release all of the hostages – “the women, the children, the toddlers, the babies, all of them.”

CIA director Bill Burns is back in Washington but has remained involved following his meetings in recent weeks with the Mossad chief. President Biden himself has been working the phones, calling Qatar’s Emir on November 12th and as recently as Friday, an indication that a resolution was near.

Qatar is using its relationship with Hamas to mediate and the U.S. is helping to broker proposals that are passed from a tight circle in Doha to Hamas leaders in Gaza as well as Israel’s five-person war cabinet that is led by Netanyahu.

Free America Network Articles

Leave a Reply

Next Post

Rosalynn Carter, former first lady, dies at age 96

Former first lady Rosalynn Carter has died at the age of 96, the Carter Center announced Sunday.  The Carter Center said she died “peacefully, with family by her side” at 2:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 19, at her home in Plains, Georgia. “Rosalynn was my equal partner in everything […]

You May Like