US hopeful for a deal to release hostages in Israel

The US government expresses optimism that a deal to release the hostages taken from Israel during Hamas’s attacks last month is “closer than ever before.” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby stated that there is still work to be done, but the negotiations are progressing. US President Joe Biden also mentioned that an agreement is nearing. The Hamas attacks on 7 October resulted in the kidnapping of approximately 240 people and the death of 1,200 Israelis. In retaliation, Israel’s campaign resulted in the deaths of 13,000 people in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Qatar, a key mediator in securing the release of four hostages last month, has hinted at the possibility of a deal. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has sent its president to Qatar to address humanitarian issues related to the conflict and facilitate releases once agreements have been reached. The ICRC has already facilitated the release of four hostages, including US nationals and elderly Israeli women. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stated that only “very minor” practical obstacles remain. Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Herzog, expressed hope for the release of a significant number of hostages in the coming days. It is speculated that the release could be a phased process, initially freeing a small number of hostages alongside a ceasefire. This could then lead to the release of more hostages. There have also been suggestions that part of the deal could involve the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, potentially focusing on women and minors. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has previously stated that he will only consider a ceasefire once all hostages are released. Last week, the bodies of two hostages were found in the Gaza Strip. However, there have been tensions between the families of the hostages and Israeli politicians. Some relatives walked out of a meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu after being told that securing the release was not the main priority. There were also confrontations in the Knesset, with relatives urging far-right members of the coalition government not to introduce legislation for the death penalty against Hamas, as it could endanger the hostages. The relatives accused the politicians of crossing a line and sparking more violence and hate. They emphasized that the release of the hostages is crucial to regain trust in the government.