US says ‘understanding’ reached at Gaza hostage talks but negotiations continue

Feb 25, 2024, 3:56 PM

Placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza are lifted during a rally calling for t...

Placards bearing portraits of Israeli hostages held in Gaza are lifted during a rally calling for their release in Tel Aviv on Feb. 8. (Ahmad Gharabli, AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Ahmad Gharabli, AFP/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(CNN) — Negotiators have come to an “understanding” on the broad contours of a potential deal to release hostages held by Hamas in exchange for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN Sunday.

An Israeli delegation, including Mossad director David Barnea, joined talks with CIA director Bill Burns and Egyptian and Qatar negotiators in Paris on Friday. Qatar and Egypt serve as intermediaries between Hamas and Israel, which do not talk directly to each other.

Hamas was briefed on the Paris talks on Sunday evening. But any possible final deal is still, at the earliest, days away as negotiators continue to hammer out the actual details.

“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. I’m not going to go into the specifics of that because it is still under negotiation in terms of hammering out the details of it,” Sullivan told CNN’s Dana Bash on ‘State of the Union.’

He added: “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 underway. 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. But we will have to wait and see.”

When pressed by Bash on how hopeful he was about a potential deal, Sullivan declined to weigh in: “There’s been a lot of to’ing and fro’ing. So I’m not going to make predictions and I’m not going to kind of put percentage chances on it.”

Speaking to CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stressed Israel wants to liberate the remaining hostages in Gaza, saying “we are all working on it. We want it. I want it.”

He said Hamas’ “crazy” demands were holding up the deal.

US ‘concerns’ over postwar Gaza plan

Negotiators will continue discussions on Monday in Doha, according to a diplomat and sources familiar with the talks. Those talks will be between working level officials to focus on ironing out technical issues, they say.

Discussions will include officials from the parties involved in the Paris talks: Qatar, Egypt, the US and Israel. From the US side, these will include officials from the CIA.

Despite the ongoing fighting in Gaza, positive signs are emerging from the talks. Tzachi Hanegbi, the head of National Security for Israel, on Saturday told Israeli media he believed it “will be possible to move forward.”

But a Hamas leader, Dr. Bassem Naim, told CNN on Sunday he is “not aware” of any progress in negotiations between Israel and Hamas.

Regarding Netanyahu’s recently released blueprint for what a post-war Gaza would look like, Sullivan said he has “some concerns” based on what he’s seen in the press but that he is expecting to be briefed by his Israeli counterparts later Sunday.

“From what I’ve seen in the reporting, I have some concerns,” he told CNN.

Later in an interview on Fox News Sunday, Sullivan also said: “I’m talking to my Israeli counterparts later today to hear more because they’ve gone out in the press without coming to us to talk through all of this. So, I’ll wait and see.”

The Israeli leader has repeatedly said that the war in Gaza will continue until Israel destroys Hamas’ leadership and rescues the hostages.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on Sunday that Israeli hostage Oz Daniel, 19, has become the latest hostage to be confirmed dead.

Daniel had been listed among the hostages thought to be alive, so his death brings the number of dead October 7 hostages to 30, out of 130 hostages taken on October 7.

In November last year, Israel and Hamas agreed on the first breakthrough deal securing the release of 105 hostages held by Hamas. The deal also included a four-day pause in fighting, which ended up being extended.

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US says ‘understanding’ reached at Gaza hostage talks but negotiations continue