International negotiators seeking to broker an agreement for the release of the 136 hostages being held captive by Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip have developed a “framework” that could lead to a release deal in the future, the White House said on Monday.
U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, in an interview with MSNBC, described the ongoing talks as “constructive” but clarified that while progress has been made, there is no “deal that’s on the table and imminently ready to be announced.
“We think there’s a framework here for another hostage deal that could really make a difference in terms of getting more hostages out, getting more aid in, and actually getting the violence to come down, and that would reduce, of course, civilian casualties,” Kirby told the channel’s “Morning Joe” news talk show.
“A lot of promise here, but again, I want to be very, very clear there’s still diplomacy ahead of us, still a lot of discussions to occur before we can get there,” he added.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said on Monday that his government was working to relay the proposed framework to Hamas after “good progress” was made over the weekend.
“We are hoping, actually, to relay this proposal to Hamas and to get them to a place where they engage positively and constructively in the process,” the Qatari leader told NBC News.
Al Thani said the current phase of talks could lead to a permanent ceasefire “in the future,” seemingly implying that Hamas might agree to a temporary truce, something the terror group has rejected until now.
On Sunday, Mossad chief David Barnea and Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) director Ronen Bar met with Qatari and Egyptian mediators in Paris to discuss a possible hostage release agreement.
According to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, “The meeting was defined as constructive,” although “there are still significant gaps which the sides will continue to discuss at additional mutual meetings to be held this week.”
Saudi-owned Al-Hadath television said that the parties reached a “breakthrough” for a two-month ceasefire-for-hostages deal under which Israel also agreed to allow more aid into Gaza.
The New York Times previously reported that discussions are currently focused on a ceasefire for a period of up to two months in exchange for the staged release of more than 100 hostages. In addition to pausing its military campaign, Israel would have to agree to commute the prison sentences of an unspecified number of Palestinian terrorists.
On Monday, Sky News Arabic claimed that the agreed framework would see Israeli children, women, the elderly and the wounded freed in exchange for the release of a “large number” of Palestinian terrorists.
According to several reports, negotiations have been complicated by Hamas’s demand for an end to the war, a stance that is incompatible with Israel’s stated goal of destroying the terrorist group in Gaza.
Some 136 hostages remain in the Strip, although dozens are believed to be dead. The terrorist group abducted more than 240 people during its Oct. 7 rampage across the northwestern Negev in which it murdered some 1,200 people and wounded thousands of others.
A total of 105 hostages, mostly women and children, were released in late November as part of a ceasefire agreement that Hamas broke when it refused to hand over the last group of female hostages and two young children, and then fired a volley of rockets at the Jewish state.
Four hostages had been released by Hamas before the ceasefire, while one was rescued by IDF soldiers.