Multiple sources informed CBS News that negotiators are moving closer to an agreement with Hamas to free an initial 50 people in exchange for Israel allowing in more supplies, including gasoline, coinciding with a temporary respite in combat. More civilian captive releases are possible in the future.
At this point, there is no solid settlement in hand, but rather a written draft agreement that is being shared between parties who are still embroiled in what two individuals familiar with the situation characterized as “very difficult talks” arranged with the assistance of the United States and Qatar.
In an interview with “Face the Nation with Margaret Brennan,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer stated that “many areas of difference that previously existed” in the hostage negotiations “have been narrowed,” and that the US is “closer than we have been to reaching a final agreement.”
Finer stated that discussing the emerging diplomacy in public would be counterproductive, and he noted that previous treaties had gotten near before failing. Last week, hopes were high that a breakthrough in negotiation was finally on the horizon, but two regional sources noted the Israeli military attack on al-Shifa hospital as complicating communication with Hamas.
According to a person acquainted with the draft deal, the idea as it stands today would entail the release of 50 hostages on day one, followed by a four-day halt in hostilities lasting six hours each day. According to this source, if the release and pause go as planned, there will be a second release of roughly 20-25 captives. Officials at the White House declined to comment on the sensitive matter.
Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani described the remaining sticking points in the developing accord between Israel and Hamas as “very minor” logistical issues in a news conference on Sunday in Doha, saying the parties are “close to reaching an agreement.”
According to sources acquainted with the discussions, there have been many new complicating concerns, including whether overhead monitoring would occur during the releases. Israel has also requested that Hamas account for the hostages it possesses or potentially get from other terrorist organizations like as Islamic Jihad, given that the overall number of more than 200 prisoners is only an estimate. Last Monday, the IDF discovered the bodies of two unidentified people suspected to be captives, Noa Marciano and Yehudit Weiss, near the 45,00-square-meter al-Shifa medical complex in Gaza. The bones of those slain by Hamas and other terrorists during the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel are still being recognized.
“Obviously, Gaza is an extremely dangerous place to be a civilian, to be a hostage held at this point,” Finer explained to CBS’ Margaret Brennan, “so there is a time imperative.”
Finer refused to use the expression “running out of time,” but he did say that “we feel acutely that this should be done as soon as possible.”
Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell that Israel had “strong indications” that captives were being kept in al-Shifa hospital, which was one of the reasons for the Israeli Defense Forces’ decision to invade al-Shifa. “If there were any,” Netanyahu replied, “they were taken out.”
The US has not provided intelligence to back up the assessment, but it did provide downgraded intelligence last week that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad members operate a “command and control node” from al-Shifa hospital and tunnels beneath, and have used it for both weapons and hostages.
Finer stated that the US remains confident in its judgment and that the Israeli military is currently “exploiting” the al Shifa site for more information.
President Biden’s top Mideast advisor, Brett McGurk, described the hostage discussions as “intensive and ongoing” on Saturday in Manama before proceeding to Doha for meetings with Qatar’s Prime Minister that night. McGurk backed Israel’s appeal for the release of a “large number of hostages” in order to bring about a “significant pause in fighting” and a “massive” influx in humanitarian aid. He stated that receiving gasoline and humanitarian assistance was one of Hamas’ requests. McGurk made no mention of Hamas’s prior request for the release of an unspecified number of Palestinian women and children from Israeli prison camps.
“That’s the bargain they set,” McGurk has stated since the beginning. McGurk stated that the onus is still on Hamas to free all of the captives, including “the women, the children, the toddlers, the babies, all of them.”
Bill Burns, the director of the CIA, has returned to Washington but has stayed active following his discussions with Mossad leader in recent weeks. President Biden has been on the phone, phoning Qatar’s Emir on November 12th and again on Friday, indicating that a settlement was close.
Qatar is mediating through its ties with Hamas, and the US is assisting in the brokering of plans that are transferred from a small circle in Doha to Hamas officials in Gaza as well as Israel’s five-person war council chaired by Netanyahu.