Friday, April 12, 2024

Biden aide says US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar agreed on ‘basic contours’ of captive deal

The United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have come to an understanding of "basic contours" of a hostage agreement for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has stated.

The deal is still under negotiation, said Sullivan, who added there will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday stated it was not clear yet whether a hostage agreement would materialise from ongoing talks, declining to discuss specifics but saying Hamas needed to “come down to a reasonable situation”.

Netanyahu, speaking in an interview with CBS News, added he was meeting with staff later on Sunday to review a dual military plan that included the evacuation of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and an operation to destroy remaining Hamas battalions, which Israel claims are located in Rafah in southern Gaza.

“If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen. If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway,” he told CBS.

Sullivan said on Sunday in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme that US President Joe Biden has not been briefed on Israel’s plan for military operations in Rafah, but believes civilian life must be protected.

“We do not believe that an operation, a major military operation, should proceed in Rafah unless there is a clear and executable plan to protect those civilians, to get them to safety and to feed, clothe and house them,” Sullivan added.

The talks began last week in Paris and were attended by the chiefs of Israel’s spy agency Mossad and domestic security service Shin Bet, along with mediators from the United States, Qatar and Egypt.

Prior to the latest round of talks, Hamas had stressed it would accept nothing less than a complete cessation of fighting and an end to the siege of Gaza, something Netanyahu had dismissed while emphasising “total victory” over the armed group.

Close to 30,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children, have been confirmed killed by the Ministry of Health in Gaza, with thousands more missing and presumably still under the rubble.

More than 100 captives, including Israelis and other nationals, were released as part of a one-week pause in fighting in November, which also saw hundreds of Palestinians released from Israeli prisons.

In Israel, pressure has been steadily building on Netanyahu and his war cabinet to strike a deal to secure the release of the captives.

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