US President Joe Biden said he believed the Hamas held hostages in Gaza would be released as his top advisor Brett McGurk headed to the region for meetings, among others, in Israel and Qatar for talks on the captives.
“In Doha, he [McGurk] will also focus on the intensive efforts to secure release of hostages being held by Hamas, including a number of Americans, one of whom is a 3-year old toddler,” the White House said in a media statement.
Qatar with Egypt’s help have facilitated indirect talks on a possible hostage deal, that would include some but not all of the over 239 hostage Hamas seized in its October 7 attack on Israel in which it also killed over 1,200 people.
Israeli media reported that Shin Bet chief Ronen Bar visited Cairo on Tuesday to talk with Egyptian intelligence head Abbas Kamal. Israel’s war cabinet met following that visit.
In Washington, Biden said he speaks every day with the parties involved in negotiations over a possible hostage release, but did not want to share the details.
“Hang in there, we’re coming,” Biden said at the White House, when asked by reporters what his message to family members of hostages was.
Possible swap deal
The armed wing of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas said on Monday that it told Qatari mediators the group was ready to release up to 70 women and children held in Gaza in return for a five-day truce with Israel.
“Last week, there was an effort from the Qatari brothers to release the enemy captives from women and children [sic], in return for the release of 200 Palestinian children [minors under 18] and 75 women detained by the enemy,” Abu Obaida, the spokesman for the al-Qassam Brigades armed wing of Hamas, said in an audio recording posted on the group’s Telegram channel.
In a column published Tuesday, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius said he had been briefed on the details of a possible deal.
Israeli official refused to discuss details of any deal publicly, except to state that they sought the release of all the hostages and that it rejects ceasefire calls.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement explaining, ”Our hearts are always with the hostages and their families.”
“Since the beginning of the war, we have been working relentlessly for the release of the hostages, including using increased pressure since the start of the ground incursion.”
“If and when there will be something concrete to report – we will do so.”
The families of the hostage and their supporters kicked off a five-day march on Tuesday from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to demand the government does much more to secure their release, explaining that their patience had run out.
Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met in Geneva with World Health Organization and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) alongside families of Israeli hostages.
To date, four hostages have been freed in two separate releases, two of whom were US citizens. US and Israelis officials have made comments that linked humanitarian pauses to hostage releases.