Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on Sunday (Nov 19) that his country was hopeful that a significant number of Israeli hostages could be released by Hamas in the coming days. In an interview with ABC News, Herzog said, “We are hopeful that we can get a significant number of hostages freed in the coming days. I don’t want to go into the details of these talks. They are obviously very sensitive. The less we go into the details, the better the chances of such a deal. But they are very serious efforts, and I’m hopeful that we can have a deal in the coming days.”
Herzog said that Israel was talking about a pause “in the fighting for a few days so we can get the hostages out.” However, he pointed out that this would not be a ceasefire.
“Our forces are not there in order to reoccupy Gaza, to govern Gaza. It is not our desire. It’s not our wish. We do not wish to take territory from Gaza. That’s not the intention. Our intention is to dismantle the Hamas terror machine,” the ambassador added.
Since the conflict started on Oct 7, Hamas has taken 240 Israelis as hostages.
Challenges to hostage deal are logistical, says Qatar PM
Earlier on Sunday, Qatar Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said that the challenges to the Israel-Hamas war hostage deal were logistical. Addressing a press conference with European Union’s (EU) foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, Prime Minister Al Thani said, “The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges, they are more logistical, they are more practical.”
“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 people safely back to their homes, whether they are the hostages on Hamas side or whatever the exchange that will happen, will take place from the Israeli side,” he added.
Hostage deal closer than ever: White House
Also on Sunday, a White House official said that the hostage deal was closer than ever, and an agreement to free “considerably more than 12” hostages would also likely include an extended pause in the fighting and allow for the distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza.
“What I can say at this point is that some of the outstanding areas of disagreement, in a very complicated, very sensitive negotiation, have been narrowed,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told NBC.
Finer also said Israel should not conduct combat operations against Hamas in the south of Gaza until military planners have taken into account the safety of fleeing Palestinian civilians.