U.S. Refutes Israel-Hamas Hostage Deal Report, Continues Talks

November 19, 2023 By admin Off

U.S. officials denied Saturday a report of that a deal was reached between Hamas and Israel for the release of an unknown number of hostages held in Gaza — but said efforts to reach such an agreement are ongoing. “We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on X. Watson was responding to a report Saturday evening in the Washington Post saying Israel, the United States and Hamas had agreed to a pause in the Gaza war in return for Hamas’ release of women and children it is holding hostage. The agreement would include a five-day pause in fighting — which would be the first sustained period of calm since the war began on Oct. 7, the Washington Post reported. Under the agreement, the pause would allow for the release of an initial 50 or more hostages, broken up into small batches in 24 hour increments. Hours before the National Security Council statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed what he called “a lot of incorrect reports” about an imminent hostage deal, said a report in the Times of Israel. “As of now, there is no deal,” Netanyahu said on Saturday night in Israel. A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington declined to comment on any aspect of the hostage situation to the Washington Post. Around 239 people are believed being held captive in Gaza. The break in fighting would also allow for an increase in the amount of humanitarian aid, including fuel, to enter the besieged enclave, the Washington Post report said. Talks about a hostage release deal have been reported underway for several weeks. They are said to be centered in Qatar, where Qatari mediators are indirectly representing Hamas. Israeli National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi has told reporters in recent days the war cabinet had agreed that a limited cease-fire could only happen after “a massive release of our hostages… and it will be limited and short, because after that we will continue to work towards achieving our war goals.”