Hostage deal announcement between Israel and Hamas could come as soon Tuesday: sources

Qatar is hoping to announce a deal as soon as Tuesday to release civilian hostages taken by Hamas in the October 7 attack in exchange for a pause in fighting, according to a diplomatic source and another source familiar with the talks.

US officials close to the negotiations stressed that while the deal is not done, they are increasingly optimistic and believe the many weeks of difficult work is about to pay off with a hostage release.

“It’s very close,” a senior US official told CNN.

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Two Israeli sources said a deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday. The release of the prisoners needs to be approved by the Israeli government but isn’t expected to be an obstacle, one said.

The deal would call for the release of 50 women and children hostages that the militant group took during the October 7 attack on Israel, in exchange for a four-to-five day pause in fighting and three Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for every civilian hostage released, according to multiple sources.

Under the agreement, Hamas would also gather up any additional women and children hostages during the period that fighting has paused – something the group has insisted that it cannot do until a full ceasefire is in place. The temporary ceasefire would potentially be extended beyond that for more hostages to be released.

The hostages to be released are of various nationalities, and one of them that the Americans are hoping will be released first is 3-year-old American toddler Abigail Edan – the youngest American hostage whose parents were killed by Hamas, according to the person familiar. It was not immediately clear how many more – if any – American citizens would be among the 50 hostages that Hamas initially releases.

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During the days that the fighting is paused, Israel would stop flying surveillance drones over northern Gaza for at least six hours each day, the person familiar said.

Diplomatic sources and government officials, including US President Joe Biden, over the last few days have struck a more optimistic tone about the progress of talks but the diplomatic source suggested a final agreement could be imminent. Any agreement could be derailed by developments on the ground in Gaza.

Monday night Hamas’ leader said in a statement that the sides are “close to reaching a truce agreement.”

The latest momentum comes just one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet met with hostage families.

ALSO SEE: 31 premature babies evacuated from Gaza’s largest hospital as Hamas-Israel fighting continues

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