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U.S. says hostage deal is close but not 'final'

Anadolu Agency MIDDLE EAST
Published November 21,2023

U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Tuesday that a hostage deal with Hamas is close but not there yet.

"Nothing is final until everything is final, and at this point, everything is not yet final. But we are close," Miller told reporters.

Miller clarified that the U.S. position is that humanitarian aid to Gaza is not contingent on a hostage deal with Hamas and said any kind of hostage agreement would unlock the potential for the delivery of more humanitarian assistance flowing into Gaza.

The U.S. position is that a hostage deal and humanitarian assistance "don't need to be linked," said Miller, adding that "humanitarian assistance should be delivered as quickly as possible."

His remarks came hours after President Joe Biden said the U.S. is "very close" to bringing hostages "home" amid reports of progress on reaching an agreement for the release of Israelis held by the Palestinian resistance group, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.

"We are now very close, very close," Biden said at a White House meeting on countering the flow of fentanyl into the U.S.

"We could bring the hostages home very soon," he said, adding that he does not want to "get into the details."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas' political leader, indicated progress Tuesday on reaching an agreement for the release of hostages held by Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Several U.S. media outlets reported on a possible Israel-Hamas deal to be announced Tuesday, to release 50 women and children in exchange for a four- to five-day pause and the release of three Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for every hostage released.

Hamas is believed to be holding at least 239 hostages following a cross-border attack against Israel on Oct. 7. The group said it is ready to release the hostages in return for thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails.