Israel and Hamas are nearing a deal to free hostages. Here’s what we know.

Families and friends of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
Families and friends of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv on Tuesday. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

A possible hostage deal between Israel and Hamas is imminent and could be announced as soon as Tuesday. Officials from both sides indicated they were close to an agreement for Hamas to release some of the roughly 240 hostages the militant group seized during its brutal attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

Ismail Haniyeh, the Qatar-based political leader of Hamas, told Reuters that the militant group was “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with military reservists and said, “We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying more, even at this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon.” He said Tuesday that even if a temporary ceasefire is reached, Israel will continue its war against Hamas.

A hostage deal like this requires approval from Israel’s government, which is why Netanyahu called for Israel’s war Cabinet, as well as the security Cabinet, to meet. The war Cabinet will meet first on Tuesday, followed by the security Cabinet and then the government, with the deal needing to be approved at each stage.

The U.S. is helping to broker the deal, though officials with knowledge of the agreement stressed that it could fall through at any moment.

President Biden expressed his optimism about a possible deal on Tuesday. “We're now very close, very close to bringing some of these hostages home very soon, but I don't want to get into the details because nothing is done until it's done,” he said during a White House event on Tuesday. “When we have more to say, we will, but things are looking good for the moment.”

All of this comes as multiple large explosions rocked northern Gaza on Tuesday, though in past conflicts between Israel and Hamas, fighting has been known to increase leading up to a temporary ceasefire or pause in fighting.

Netanyahu has taken a hard stance, saying that there would be “no ceasefire” until Hamas releases all of the hostages the militant group took last month. However, talks behind closed doors indicate that there might be incremental hostage exchanges, according to the New York Times. Here’s what we know about the hostage deal so far.

What could the deal look like?

The agreement could call for the release of 50 women and children held hostage by Hamas in exchange for a four- to five-day pause in fighting, according to multiple media outlets that have cited sources familiar with the deal. The deal could also see three Palestinian prisoners released for every civilian hostage released.

Israel would also be required to stop flying surveillance drones over northern Gaza for at least six hours a day, during which Hamas would be expected to release hostages. This would mean Israel would lose ground in tracking Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Hamas has also demanded hundreds of trucks with aid, much of it being fuel that is integral to running its military operations and to provide ventilation and air for the militant group’s network of underground tunnels.

Do we know which hostages would be released?

So far, the identities of the hostages who would be released as part of the deal were not immediately clear, though they are of various nationalities, CNN reports. Americans are hopeful that the youngest U.S. hostage, 3-year-old Abigail Edan, whose parents were killed by Hamas, will be among those released. It’s unclear whether any other American citizens would be among the 50 released under the agreement.

Are Israel and Hamas talking directly to each other?

No. Qatar is mediating the deal, with the support of the U.S.

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How many other hostages have been freed from Hamas?

Four hostages have been released since they were captured on Oct. 7.

American citizens Judith Tai Raanan and her 17-year-old daughter, Natalie Raanan, were released on Oct. 20 following negotiations between Qatar and Hamas. The pair are now back home in Chicago.

Two Israeli women — Nurit Cooper, 79, and Yocheved Lifshitz, 85 — were released on Oct. 23 into Egypt to the International Red Cross and then transferred to the Israel Defense Forces as part of a deal brokered by Egypt and Qatar.