“Closer than we have been” to deal between Hamas and Israel on hostage release, White House official says

Washington — The U.S. believes a deal between Israel and Hamas to release hostages held by the terrorist group is close, a top national security adviser to President Biden said Sunday. 

“Many areas of difference that previous previously existed have been narrowed,” deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told “Face the Nation.” “We believe we are closer than we have been to reaching a final agreement. But on an issue as sensitive as this and as challenging as this, the mantra that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed,’ really does apply, and we do not yet have an agreement in place.” 

“We’re going to continue working this directly and intensively behind the scenes with the goal of getting as many of these people home, including the Americans, who are held hostage there as we can as soon as we can,” he said. 

The Washington Post reported Saturday that a deal for the release 50 or more women and children being held hostage in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting had been tentatively agreed to, but the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied that an agreement was reached. 

Qatar’s prime minister said Sunday the remaining obstacles to a deal “are just practical and logistical,” according to Reuters. Qatar has been involved in the mediation between Israel and Hamas

“The deal is going through ups and downs from time to time throughout the last few weeks. But I think that you know I’m now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal that can bring the people safely back to their home,” said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. 

Roughly 240 hostages are believed to have been taken during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, according to the Israel Defense Forces. Only four have been released, including two Americans. 

Netanyahu told CBS News on Thursday that Israel was “closer” to a deal on securing the release of hostages, but said there would only be a temporary cease-fire “if we can get our hostages back.” 

When asked whether time is running out to secure their release, Finer said he wouldn’t use that phrase, but said there is “a time imperative.” 

“We feel acutely that this should be done as soon as possible and we are putting pressure on the diplomacy to try to get this done,” Finer said. 

Finer said the matter is an “extraordinarily high priority for everyone” in the Biden administration, including the president, “who is personally engaged on this issue.” 

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