Hamas reportedly freezes talks over IDF ops near hospital

Netanyahu says hostage deal ‘could’ happen, amid reports of emerging prisoner swap

In interview with US network, PM mum on details, says military pressure boosts chances; asked if Israel knows where hostages are currently held, he says: 'We know a great deal'

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to NBC's "Meet the Press," on November 12, 2023. (NBC screenshot: used in accordance with Clause 27a of the Copyright Law)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday there “could be” a potential deal to release some of the hundreds of hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, amid reports of an emerging proposal to exchange them for Palestinian security prisoners.

NBC News cited a US administration official confirming earlier reporting that a potential deal being discussed would see some 80 women and children held hostage by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza released in exchange for Israel freeing imprisoned female and underage terror convicts.

The official stressed that the reported deal was not a sure thing, and that Washington was following up on all options for the release of the hostages.

Terrorists took some 240 hostages during their devastating October 7 attack on Israel, in which they killed some 1,200 people, mostly civilians in their homes and at a music festival. Israel declared war with the aim of eradicating Hamas following the terror group’s massacre.

Four civilian hostages have been released by the Hamas terror group, while one captured soldier was rescued by security forces.

In his interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Netanyahu was cautious when asked about the reported emerging hostage deal.

“I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes,” Netanyahu said.

The premier reaffirmed his stance that military pressure on Hamas is increasing the chances to secure hostage releases, a position apparently running counter to Americans’ call for humanitarian pauses as a way to ease the captives’ release.

“We heard that there was an impending [hostage] 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,” Netanyahu told the network.

“Military pressure,” Netanyahu asserted, “is 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.”

A Palestinian official briefed on the talks told Reuters Sunday that Hamas had suspended negotiations over the military’s activities around Shifa Hospital, where the IDF is conducting fierce battles with gunmen. Israel says Hamas’s main command center is located in tunnels under Shifa.

Footage of the area appeared to show heavy fighting in the vicinity of the hospital, with the constant sounds of gunfire and explosions. Witnesses said that airstrikes had continued in the area overnight.

Health officials say thousands of medics, patients and displaced people are trapped in the area surrounding Shifa Hospital, with no electricity and dwindling supplies. The IDF has insisted civilians are able to leave the hospital from its eastern side, and that no military activity is taking place there. It also says it is working with the staff at hospitals in northern Gaza to aid them in safely evacuating.

Netanyahu told NBC that Israel offered to supply fuel to the hospital, which is in dire need of it, but that the offer was rejected.

Regarding whether Israel knows where hostages are currently held, the premier said: “We know a great deal, but I won’t go beyond that.”

In a separate interview with CNN, Netanyahu called on the world to join the campaign to free the captives, emphasizing that the only acceptable ceasefire “is one in which we have our hostages released.”

An earlier report by the Walla news site said that Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East, will visit Israel on Tuesday as part of a whirlwind tour of countries in the region with the goal of reaching the US-brokered deal.

The report cited two unnamed Israeli and American senior officials, who said that McGurk will first visit Brussels for talks with NATO and European Union officials on the war, then arrive in the Jewish state, where he’ll meet Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and senior security and intelligence officials.

McGurk will then reportedly head to Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. The officials said that’s just one of the options and there’s “no certainty that any proposed deal will succeed.”

Marking 36 days since hostages were kidnapped, tens of thousands of people gathered in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and elsewhere on Saturday night to demand their return.

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