Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office has announced meetings of three key decision-making bodies late Tuesday to discuss “the issue of the release of hostages.” A statement released by Netanyahu’s office said the special war Cabinet will be followed by meetings of the broader Security Cabinet and then the full Cabinet.
It gave no further details, but the various bodies are required to approve important government decisions.
The meetings come as Hamas officials say a deal could be reached soon on a cease-fire and swap of Palestinian prisoners for hostages held by the Islamic militant group in Gaza.
“On the return of the hostages, we are making progress,” Netanyahu said in a meeting with Israeli soldiers. “I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not even at this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon.”
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said his group is close to reaching a “truce agreement” in talks with Qatar and Israel, rare public comments that suggest discussions over freeing some hostages held by the militant group are progressing.
“The movement delivered its response to the brothers in Qatar and the mediators, and we are close to reaching a truce agreement,” Haniyeh said in a statement on Telegram.
His comments come after US President Joe Biden said Monday that Israel and Hamas are closing in on a deal to free a group of hostages taken when the group stormed Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people. “I believe so,” Biden said when asked if a deal was near. He added that he wasn’t prepared to offer details.
Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, has agreed in principle for more than 50 women and children to be released, Axios reported earlier. In return, Israel would pause its military attacks for a specified time each day and release some Palestinians in Israeli jails.
Qatar, which hosts some of Hamas’s political leaders, is helping broker the talks between the group, a designated terrorist organization by the US and European Union, and Israel.
US Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer said in an interview Sunday with NBC that the parties were “closer than we have been in quite some time, maybe closer than we have been since the beginning of this process, to getting this deal done.”
Even with those discussions, the fighting rages on.