Qatar’s prime minister said Tuesday he was optimistic a deal would be reached soon to release Israeli hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip, pause fighting between Israel and Hamas and scale up humanitarian aid deliveries.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, said he had received a response from Hamas only a few hours earlier on Tuesday. He said it included some comments to the general framework of a proposed agreement, but he characterized it overall as a positive response.
“We are optimistic and we have delivered the response to the Israeli party,” he said at a press conference alongside U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in the region to focus on securing the hostage release and efforts to resolve Israel’s war against Hamas.
Sheikh Mohammed said receiving a response from Hamas was promising, and they are hoping to see a final deal “yielding very soon.”
Blinken, standing alongside the Qatari leader, said the U.S. is studying Hamas’s proposal “intensely,” and he will discuss the details with the Israelis when he is in Jerusalem on Wednesday.
There are about more than 100 Israeli hostages in Hamas captivity in Gaza who were kidnapped during the group’s attack against Israel on Oct. 7. Hamas, recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. government, has called for a cease-fire to Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip and the release of all Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected ending a military campaign until Israel achieves “total victory” over Hamas, and President Biden has withheld pressuring Israel into a cease-fire that much of the international community and some Democratic lawmakers have said is necessary to protect Gazan civilians suffering in a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Biden administration has instead focused on trying to achieve “pauses” in military operations, with a priority on releasing hostages to allow for delivery of humanitarian assistance, a reprieve for Gazan civilians and space to negotiate Israel’s security needs.
“The most effective path forward right now to get an extended period of calm and to work toward an end to the conflict is through an agreement on the hostages and that is what we’re intensely focused on with our partners Qatar, Egypt and working with Israel,” Blinken said at the press conference.
“Now that we have the response from Hamas to the proposal that was put on the table about a week or so ago, we’re going to be intensely focused on that,” he continued.
“That offers the prospect of extensive calm, hostages out, more assistance in, that would clearly be beneficial to everyone, and I think that offers the best path forward. But there’s a lot of work to be done to achieve it. We’re very focused on that work.”
Biden, speaking from the White House, characterized Hamas’s response as “a little over the top,” but said there is “some movement” and that negotiations are continuing.
This story was updated at 2:02 p.m.