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A woman holds photos of hostages Erez Calderon, 12, and the children of the Goldstein Almog family as protesters gather outside UNICEF offices in Tel Aviv on November 20, 2023 to demand the release of Israelis being held hostage in Gaza.
Israel, Hamas, and the United States are on the cusp Reach an agreement It could be announced on Tuesday Hamas demanded the release of 50 women and children hostage held by the armed movement during the October 7 terrorist attack on Israel, in exchange for a cessation of fighting for four to five days and the presence of three Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for every hostage released, according to Reuters. Sources familiar with the negotiations
Two Israeli sources said the agreement could be announced on Tuesday. American officials close to the negotiations stressed that although an agreement has not been reached, they are increasingly optimistic and believe that the agreement will be achieved. Many weeks of hard work About to be repaid by releasing the hostages.
“It’s very close,” a senior US official told CNN.
The Israeli Defense Cabinet met on Tuesday evening local time, followed by a meeting of the Security Cabinet. A full cabinet meeting is scheduled to be held after the end of the security cabinet meeting, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office.
“We are making progress. I don’t think it is worth saying more, even at this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon,” Netanyahu said during his meeting with reservists on Tuesday.
Reaching an agreement would lead to the first sustained cessation of fighting and a major de-escalation step by Israel since the war began.
The hostages to be released are of different nationalities, according to the person with knowledge, who said the Americans hope one of them is the 3-year-old little girl Abigail Aidan — the youngest American hostage — whose parents were killed by Hamas. It was not immediately clear how many American citizens – if any – would be among the 50 hostages that Hamas would initially release under the deal.
The movement says that the hostages that Hamas initially offered to release are alive, according to a source familiar with the talks.
The Israeli government aims to release at least 50 hostages as part of the deal on Tuesday – 10 hostages per day for five days – an Israeli government source told CNN. The government will be willing to extend the agreement if Hamas is willing to release more hostages.
Sources told CNN that Hamas initially demanded that Israeli air surveillance stop for the duration of the cessation of fighting for several days. During the negotiations, the two sides agreed that reconnaissance drones would clear Gaza’s airspace for part of each day. This six-hour period is the period during which Hamas is expected to attempt to transfer the hostages without giving up their positions.
Under the prospective agreement, Hamas will also collect any additional women and children as hostages during the period in which fighting stops – something the group has insisted it cannot do before a permanent ceasefire is reached. The temporary ceasefire will likely be extended beyond that until more hostages are released.
Hamas has also demanded hundreds of aid trucks, mostly fuel, as part of the negotiations. Fuel is considered an essential element in managing its military operations and ventilating the movement’s network of underground tunnels in Gaza.
A source familiar with the negotiations said there is hope that with the hostage deal more aid will be allowed into Gaza, as stakeholders work towards a target of 400 trucks arriving per day.
The deal will come after weeks of painstaking negotiations between Israel, Hamas and the United States, with Qatar playing a key mediation role. Implementation of the agreement will not begin immediately and may take at least a day to begin, the person familiar with the matter said, partly because there are legal procedures Israel must follow before releasing any Palestinian prisoners. These prisoners are expected to be women and teenage girls.
One of the sources said that the release of prisoners requires the approval of the Israeli government, but it is not expected to pose an obstacle. While Cabinet officials met inside the Israeli Defense Building to discuss the deal, families of the hostages gathered outside carrying signs and drums.
But two far-right Israeli parties, which are members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition government, later indicated that they would not support the hostage deal being considered by the government.
The Religious Zionist Party, headed by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, said, “The proposed deal is bad and we should not agree to it.” It is bad for Israel’s security, for the hostages and for the IDF soldiers,” he said, adding that “the only way to return all the hostages is to continue military pressure on Hamas until its complete surrender.” The Jewish Power party, which is led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, also said that it “will find it very difficult In support of the deal.”
The two parties’ statement indicated that they have not yet seen the full terms of the deal.
Over the past few days, diplomatic sources and government officials, including US President Joe Biden, have expressed a more optimistic tone about the progress of the talks. But the various parties involved also stressed that any agreement could be derailed by Hamas and developments on the ground in Gaza.
On Monday night, the Hamas leader said in a statement that the two parties were “close to reaching a truce agreement.”
The latest momentum comes just one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his war cabinet met with the families of the hostages.
Israel said there are more than 200 hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. After the release of the women and children, further negotiations are likely to begin to secure the release of other categories of hostages.
Senior US officials worked intensively to secure the hostages’ release for several weeks, on the grounds that a handful of American hostages were being held hostage by Hamas. Biden spoke directly with Netanyahu, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi about the issue.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that Biden was “personally involved in moving the process forward” and was receiving updates from the US team involved in the negotiations “usually several times a day and stepping in when he felt it was appropriate to intervene.” Personally.”
Senior Biden officials, including National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East Brett McGurk, and CIA Director Bill Burns, were involved “almost hourly” in the effort to extract the hostages from Gaza, the sources said. McGurk recently traveled to the Middle East on a multi-country trip aimed in large part at making progress on the release of hostages.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
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