7:45 a.m. ET, November 21, 2023
Announcement of hostage deal between Israel and Hamas could come as early as today
By CNN’s Becky Anderson, MJ Lee and Alex Marquardt
Leon Neal/Getty Images
Qatar hopes to announce a deal today to release civilian hostages taken by Hamas during the Oct. 7 attack in exchange for a pause in fighting, according to a diplomatic source and another source close to the talks.
U.S. officials close to the negotiations stressed that even if the deal is not reached, they are increasingly optimistic that the many weeks of difficult work are about to be rewarded with the release of the hostages.
“It’s very close,” a senior US official told CNN.
Two Israeli sources also say a deal could be announced as early as today. The release of prisoners must be approved by the Israeli government but should not constitute an obstacle, it is said.
The deal would see the release of 50 women and children hostages the militant group took during the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, in exchange for a four- to five-day break in fighting and three Palestinian prisoners for each. civilian hostage released, according to several sources.
Under the terms of the deal, Hamas would also take any additional women and children hostage during the pause in fighting – something the group insisted it could not do until a complete ceasefire was not in place.
The temporary ceasefire could be extended beyond this period to allow the release of more hostages.
The hostages who will be freed are of various nationalities, and one of them that the Americans hope to see freed first is Abigail Edan, a 3-year-old American girl – the youngest American hostage whose parents were killed by Hamas, according to the person familiar. . It was not immediately clear how many additional U.S. citizens — if any — would be among the 50 hostages initially released by Hamas.
During the days when fighting is halted, Israel will stop flying surveillance drones over northern Gaza for at least six hours each day, the person said.
Diplomatic sources and government officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have taken a more optimistic tone in recent days about the progress of negotiations, but the diplomatic source suggests a final deal could be imminent.
Any agreement could be compromised by developments on the ground in Gaza.
On Monday evening, the Hamas leader said in a statement that the parties were “close to reaching a truce agreement.”
This latest push comes just a day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet met with the families of the hostages.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.