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Israel-Hamas war: Negotiators inch closer to deal on hostages in Gaza

Negotiators are moving closer to an agreement in which Israel would pause its war in the Gaza Strip for two months in exchange for the release of more than 100 hostages still held by Hamas, according to a published report.

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The New York Times, quoting anonymous U.S. officials “who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive talks,” said an American-led negotiating team has developed a written draft agreement that combines the proposals of the Israelis and Hamas.

The basic framework will be discussed during talks on Sunday in Paris, according to the newspaper.

President Joe Biden spoke on Friday with the leaders of Egypt and Qatar, the nations that have served as intermediaries with Hamas, according to The Associated Press.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Biden spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi and Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“We continue to do everything we can to facilitate another hostage deal, just as we did in November,” Kirby told reporters.

“Both leaders affirmed that a hostage deal is central to establishing a prolonged humanitarian pause in the fighting and ensure additional lifesaving humanitarian assistance reaches civilians in need throughout Gaza,” the White House said in a statement Friday night. “They underscored the urgency of the situation and welcomed the close cooperation among their teams to advance recent discussions.”

Biden is sending CIA Director William Burns to the Paris talks on Sunday to help broker a deal, according to The Washington Post.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement on Saturday that his administration remains committed to gaining the release of hostages who were not freed during November’s limited agreement, the Times reported.

“As of today, we have returned 110 of our hostages and we are committed to returning all of them home,” Netanyahu said. “We are dealing with this and we are doing so around the clock, including now.”

The hostages have been in captivity since Oct. 7. In November, a deal brokered by Biden, with the help of Egypt and Qatar, resulted in a seven-day pause in the fighting, the Times reported. Hamas released more than 100 hostages, while Israel freed approximately 240 prisoners and detainees.