Israel-Hamas hostage deal ‘very close’ – Biden

Some of the roughly 240 hostages kidnapped by the Palestinian militants could be released “very soon,” the US president has said

A Qatari-mediated agreement to release some of the Israeli hostages held by Hamas militants is “very close,” US President Joe Biden told reporters on Tuesday. Over the previous 24 hours, Israeli, American, and Palestinian sources have all suggested that a deal is at hand.

Hamas fighters took around 240 hostages to Gaza during their October 7 assault on Israel, and have since released only four of these captives. The welfare of the hostages has been a major concern for the Israeli public, who fear that the captives may be harmed during the Israel Defense Forces’ ongoing air and ground operation in the enclave, or executed in response to the Israeli attacks.

Speaking at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said that ongoing talks to free these hostages may soon pay off.

“We are now very close, very close,” he said. “We could bring some of these hostages home very soon, but I don’t want to get into the details of things because nothing is done until it’s done.”

President Biden on ongoing effort to bring home hostages: “We’ve been working on this intensively for weeks…We’re now very close, very close. We could bring some of these hostages home very soon…Nothing is done until it’s done…but things are looking good at the moment.”

— CSPAN (@cspan) November 21, 2023

“We’ve been working on this intensively for weeks as you all know,” Biden continued, adding that US officials have “been in the region shuttling between capitals.”

“Things are looking good at the moment,” Biden concluded.

News of an impending deal was broken by multiple US media outlets on Sunday and Monday, with Axios reporting that the agreement would see Hamas release 50 women and children in exchange for the release of 150 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails. This exchange would reportedly be carried out during a four-day ceasefire to allow humanitarian supplies to enter Gaza, and would be followed by a second swap of 50 Israeli hostages for 150 Palestinians.

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Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday that the group was “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “we are making progress” on the deal, and that he hoped “there will be good news soon.”

Netanyahu’s office said that the prime minister will meet with his war cabinet on Tuesday night. Israeli media reported that the cabinet is expected to approve the hostage deal during this meeting, meaning that the actual swap could take place 24 hours later.

In a post on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry stated that “we are now at the closest point we ever have been in reaching an agreement.”

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