‘We Are Closer Than We Have Been’ to a Hostage Deal, U.S. Official Says

As Israel’s bombardment of Gaza rages on, a U.S. official signaled hope for a deal between Israel and Hamas to release hostages. “We believe we are closer than we have been to reaching a final agreement,” Deputy White House National Security Adviser Jon Finer said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

But Finer advised caution, saying that “the mantra that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed really does apply.”

Negotiations between Israel and Hamas, brokered by the U.S., are nearing a deal to release hostages taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 in exchange for a temporary cessation of fighting in Gaza, according to multiple outlets.

Some media, including The Washington Post, reported that the two parties reached a “tentative deal” Saturday night. But an hour after The Post’s report, National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson shared the article on X (formerly Twitter) and wrote, “We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal.” The paper then updated its story to reflect that the U.S. was “close” to finalizing a deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there is no deal “as of now” in a Saturday briefing. “We want to get back all the hostages,” he said. “We’re doing the utmost to bring back the most possible, including in stages, and we are united on this.”

Finer also said that Israel’s military operations in southern Gaza “should not go forward” until “civilians have been accounted for in their military planning.”

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said Sunday that the events in Gaza over the past two days “beggar belief.” More than 12,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s assault on the Gaza strip, and more than one million Gazans have been forcibly displaced from their homes as bombing decimates the northern strip. In addition to bombing, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have also entered Gaza.

This week, the IDF raided Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, which the Israeli government has claimed was a center of operations for Hamas. Doctors at the hospital said newborn and premature babies were dying after the facility ran out of fuel to run generators that supplied power to incubators that were keeping infants warm. UNICEF said Sunday that 31 premature infants have been evacuated from Al-Shifa hospital to the Raffa crossing with Egypt. “The newborns’ condition was rapidly deteriorating, and follows the tragic death of several other babies, and total collapse of all medical services at Al-Shifa,” the UNICEF statement said.

“Irrespective of warnings, Israel is obliged to protect civilians wherever they are,” Türk added. He also spoke of “horrifying” images of dozens of dead bodies allegedly from an Israeli attack on a school in Jabalia refugee camp.

“The pain, dread, and fear etched on the faces of children, women and men is too much to bear,” Türk said. “How much more violence, bloodshed and misery will it take before people come to their senses? How many more civilians will be killed?”

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