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Benjamin Netanyahu says there ‘could be’ a potential deal to release hostages


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that there “could be” a potential hostage deal with Hamas but declined to give any further details, saying it could thwart the delicate negotiations to free those taken captive by the militant group on Oct. 7.

“I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes” he said in an interview on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

It is just over a month since Hamas launched its terror attack on Israel on Oct. 7 in a brutal ambush that saw more than 1,200 killed and around 220 people taken hostage.

In the weeks that have followed, Israel’s relentless bombardment of Gaza in response has seen more than 11,000 people killed, while more than 1.6 million people have been displaced, according to health officials in the besieged enclave and estimates from the United Nations.

Asked by host Kristen Welker about how close Israel was to getting the hostages out, Netanyahu said that no deal had been close until his forces began the ground operation in Gaza.

“We heard that there was an impending deal of this kind or of that kind and then we learned that it was all hokum. But the minute we started the ground operation that began to change,” he said.

Pressed again by Welker on whether there is a potential deal to release more hostages, Netanyahu replied: “There could be.”

Any deal, was “the result of pressure, military pressure,” he said, before praising the work of the Israel Defense Forces. “That’s the one thing that might create a deal and if a deal is available. Well, we will talk about it when it’s there. We’ll announce it if it’s achievable,” he said.

Asked if he knew where all the hostages were being held right now, Netanyahu said: “We know a great deal, but I won’t go beyond that.”

A Biden administration official confirmed to NBC News on Sunday that a possible deal for the release of hostages was being discussed.

This would see the release of about 80 women and children in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and teenagers held by Israel, the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said.

They added that the U.S. is also exploring other options and there is no certainty that any of them will succeed.

As the death toll mounts, protesters have rallied around the world, including in the United States, to call for a cease-fire that would bring an end to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.

The Biden administration supports a humanitarian pause in the conflict but has not yet called for a cease-fire. Asked by reporters last week on the chances of a Gaza ceasefire, President Joe Biden said: “None, no possibility.” Israel has maintained that it will not agree to any ceasefire without the release of hostages.

However, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday that “far too many” Palestinians have died and suffered in the Gaza Strip. Speaking to reporters in India’s capital New Delhi as he wrapped up an intense nine-day diplomatic tour of the Middle East and Asia, he said: “Much more needs to be done to protect civilians and to make sure that humanitarian assistance reaches them.”

“Far too many Palestinians have been killed, far too many have suffered these past weeks, and we want to do everything possible to prevent harm to them and to maximize the assistance that gets to them,” he said.

Netanyahu said Sunday that a “different authority” must govern Gaza but he declined to say if he would accept an international force to control the region once the war with Hamas is over. The U.S. has said it would oppose an Israel post-war occupation of Gaza.

Pressed to clarify what meant by his call for a “different” administration to govern Gaza, Netanyahu said: “I think it’s too early to say.”

Israeli President Isaac Herzog told NBC News last week that the country has not received a substantial offer from Hamas on a deal to secure the freedom of more than 200 hostages being held in the Gaza Strip, denying reports that a deal is within reach.

“There is no real proposal that is viable from Hamas’ side on this issue. Whilst there are many, many people who are third parties who are sending optimistic messages to the news reels, I’m saying outright: According to my knowledge, up to now, there is no real substantial information that is showing any real offer of any process on the table,” Herzog said in an interview in his office in Jerusalem.

Although he serves as Israel’s head of state, Herzog does not make policy but is briefed on Israeli intelligence and on political decisions. Netanyahu’s government makes the decisions surrounding policy.

Asked whether the lack of progress on negotiations meant Israel’s only option to recover the hostages was a military rescue, Herzog said: “I don’t intend to go into this at all.”

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.