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Israel, US, Egypt and Qatar have reached ‘understanding’ on hostage deal, Sullivan says


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Talks in Paris between Washington, Israel, Egypt and Qatar have led to an “understanding” on what a hostage deal might look like, the US said on Sunday.

“The representatives of Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar met in Paris and came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for temporary ceasefire would look like,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN.

The US, Egypt and Qatar have been working for months to try to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas that would see the militant group release more than 100 hostages it captured on October 7, in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.

An earlier proposal by the three sides was rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Hamas made a counter-offer that the Israeli leader called “delusional.”

The Palestinian militant group has since softened its demands, suggesting that it would settle for a temporary ceasefire as opposed to a permanent one.

Nonetheless, the latest plan still has to be put forward to Hamas, Mr Sullivan said.

“There will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas because ultimately they will have to agree to release the hostages, that work is under way, and we hope that in the coming days, we can drive to a point where there is actually a firm and final agreement on this issue,” he said.

The war in Gaza was sparked by Hamas when the militant group stormed into southern Israel killing about 1,200 people and kidnapping 240, who were taken to the Gaza Strip.

Israel responded with aerial and ground bombardment, which has devastated the densely populated enclave.

More than 29,500 Palestinians have been killed since the fighting started, according to the local health ministry.

Washington has been Israel’s biggest supporter throughout the conflict, providing weapons and ammunition and thrice vetoing UN Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The conflict has become a sore point for the administration in Washington, as protesters have pressed President Joe Biden for months to call for a ceasefire.

While Mr Sullivan refused to put a percentage on the chances of deal being reached, he emphasised that the White House wanted Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement soon.

“The United States position in this is clear. We would like to see this deal get done,” Mr Sullivan said.

“We would like to see the hostages returned, including American hostages, and we would like to see a temporary ceasefire which will alleviate the suffering of the people in the Gaza Strip, innocent civilians, women and children.

“So we are telling everyone including the Israeli government that it is our firm position that every effort be exercised to get to this agreement.”

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