The remarks come a day after The Washington Post reported that Israel, the US and the Hamas were close to an agreement to release 50-odd hostages in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting. The report quoted diplomats who said the Qatar-mediated talks had reached a breakthrough according to which Israel and Hamas would cease fire for at least five days while an “initial 50 or more” of the hostages “are released in batches every 24 hours”.
As many as 240 people, including dozens of women and children, were taken hostage by the Hamas after the attacks on Israeli cities left 1,200 dead. While Israel has launched a brutal offensive on Gaza in retaliation to the attacks, the fate of the hostages hangs in the balance.
On a question on whether a deal is in the works to secure their release, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the media that “there was no deal on the table”. “We want to get back all the hostages. We’re doing the utmost to bring back the most possible, including in stages, and we are united on this,” he added, refusing to elaborate further. “We obviously want to bring [home] whole families together,” he said.
The White House too has denied any deal so far. “We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on X, formerly Twitter, in response to The Washington Post report.
According to a Channel 12 report, Israel has been insisting on keeping families together for any hostage deals. Hamas is being offered a pause in fighting, release of some Palestinian prisoners and the entry of more fuel into Gaza.
Israel now faces the dual pressure of domestic uproar over the failure to free the hostages so far and international concern over the massive human cost of its war in Gaza. Over 11,000 people have been killed in the Strip since the war broke out.