Israel and Hamas are considering a deal that would include the release of most of the women and children being held hostage by the Palestinian terror group in the Gaza Strip, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
In exchange, Jerusalem would agree to a temporary ceasefire of up to five days, allow an influx of goods into the Strip and release jailed Palestinians.
“The general outline of the deal is understood,” an Israeli official was quoted by the Post as saying.
Israel is reportedly seeking the release of 100 women and children in batches, whereas Hamas is reportedly considering freeing 70.
Jerusalem wants confirmation that its captive citizens are identified by name as they are released in exchange for the Palestinian prisoners. The verification process is one of the details still being negotiated, per the report.
The Post cited Arab officials as saying there are some 120 Palestinian women and youths in Israeli prisons who could be released.
U.S. President Joe Biden voiced his strong support for a hostage deal in a call on Sunday with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, who is Hamas’s patron.
“The two leaders agreed that all hostages must be released without further delay,” according to a White House statement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said there could be a hostage deal with Hamas, speaking in an interview with NBC News‘ “Meet the Press” on Sunday.
“I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes,” the prime minister said, declining to give details.
Hamas took some 240 people hostage during its Oct. 7 attack on Israeli communities in the northwestern Negev. More than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed and thousands were wounded.
Netanyahu argued that Israel’s ground operation into the Gaza Strip, which Hamas has turned into a terror base since it seized power there in 2007, brings the possibility of freeing the hostages closer and not the reverse, as some have suggested.
“We heard that there was an impending deal of this kind or of that kind and then we learned that it was all hokum. But the minute we started the ground operation that began to change,” he said.
So far the IDF has succeeded in freeing one hostage, Pvt. Ori Megidish, 19, on Oct. 30, three weeks after Hamas kidnapped her from the army’s Nahal Oz Base.
Asked if he knew where the hostages were being held, Netanyahu said: “We know a great deal, but I won’t go beyond that.”