Israel-Hamas hostage deal: Qatar PM says 'minor' challenges remain

Gulf country has helped to broker talks aiming to free some of the about 240 hostages in return for a temporary ceasefire in the Gaza war

By AFP

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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Published: Sun 19 Nov 2023, 2:31 PM

Last updated: Sun 19 Nov 2023, 2:33 PM

A deal to free hostages Hamas seized in its October 7 attack on Israel now hinges on "minor" practical issues, Qatar's prime minister said Sunday, without giving details or a timeline.

"The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges, they are more logistical, they are more practical," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

Qatar has helped broker talks aiming to free some of the 240 hostages in return for a temporary ceasefire, a mediation effort that has so far led to the release of four hostages.

"The deal is going through ups and downs from time to time throughout the last few weeks," the premier said.

"I think that I'm now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal that can bring the people safely back to their homes."

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw the 240 hostages taken.

The army's relentless air and ground campaign has since killed 12,300 people, more than 5,000 of them children, according to the Hamas government which has ruled Gaza since 2007.

The United States said on Saturday that it was still working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas after the Washington Post reported there was a tentative agreement to free women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said all parties would halt combat operations for at least five days while some hostages were to be released in batches.

The White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with a message on X, formerly Twitter, to deny any major breakthrough.

Thani said on Sunday it was "counterproductive to see leaks about the negotiations coming out in the media before sealing the deal".

On Thursday Biden said he was "mildly hopeful" of reaching a deal to free the hostages, believed to include about 10 US citizens.

Israel has so far refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before all the captives are released.

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