newsIsrael at War

White House officials mull separate deal to free US hostages

A unilateral deal to free the five Americans being held by the terror group is a “very real option,” according to senior U.S. officials.

Demonstrators outside of Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv rally for the release of Israeli hostages taken on Oct. 7 and still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.
Demonstrators outside of Hakirya Base in Tel Aviv rally for the release of Israeli hostages taken on Oct. 7 and still being held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2024. Photo by Tomer Neuberg/Flash90.

The Biden administration has talked about negotiating a unilateral deal for the release of five Americans held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, NBC News reported on Monday.

The talks wouldn’t include Israel and would take place via Qatari mediators, two current senior U.S. officials and two former ones told NBC.

One of the current officials called it a “very real option.”

The five American hostages were abducted on Oct. 7 when the terror group invaded Israel. They are Edan Alexander, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Omer Neutra and Keith Siegel.

Three other U.S. hostages are believed to have been killed that day, with their remains being held by Hamas. America wants to recover their bodies as well.

The officials said they didn’t know what the United States could exchange for the hostages, but that Hamas might agree to a deal to “strain relations between the U.S. and Israel and put additional domestic political pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”

The administration has also discussed the possibility that a separate U.S. deal might pressure Netanyahu to agree to a ceasefire, one of the former officials said.

A separate, unilateral deal would be pursued if the current Israel-Hamas ceasefire deal on the table falls through. Last week, a Saudi paper reported that Hamas had rejected the deal, however, Israel denied that a formal rejection had taken place.

Hamas is demanding an end to the war and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza. Israel rejects those conditions.

Israel says that 120 hostages are still held by Hamas, of whom 43 have been killed. The prime minister is under internal pressure from vocal proponents of a hostage deal at all costs.

On Saturday, four hostages were rescued in a daring IDF raid.

Netanyahu spoke on Saturday night with the four hostages and their families at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, praising the soldiers who carried out the daring daytime rescue operation in Gaza earlier in the day.

“Israel just carried out a remarkable rescue operation of four hostages held by Hamas. This operation required ingenuity and courage of the highest degree, and our soldiers performed in an unmatchable way,” the premier said after meeting the rescued abductees and their relatives.

“We’re committed to getting the release of all the hostages, and we expect Hamas to release them all—but if they don’t, we’ll do whatever it takes to get them all back home,” he continued.

“Hamas is committing war crimes every day, including the holding of these hostages. Our soldiers are performing in the most valiant and moral way to end this war with a victory against these killers and against these kidnappers, and we shall prevail,” he said.

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