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US considering unilateral deal with Hamas – media

The agreement could free American hostages believed to be held in Gaza

Officials in Washington could strike a deal with Hamas militants to secure the release of American hostages in Gaza, NBC reported on Monday, citing people close to the discussions. Five US nationals are understood to be held in Gaza, along with the bodies of three others believed to have been killed during Hamas’ attack on Israel last October.

According to the report, if ceasefire talks involving Israel fail, the US would seek to clinch a unilateral agreement with the group without the participation of Israeli authorities. Instead, it would be brokered by Qatar.

NBC sources did not elaborate on what the US might promise Hamas in exchange for freeing the hostages. They noted, however, that the militants may welcome an opportunity to strike a unilateral agreement with Washington so as to put pressure on its relations with Israel, and possibly force Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to Hamas’ current version of the ceasefire proposal.

US White House officials declined to comment.

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Israeli forces killed hundreds in hostage rescue operation – Gaza authorities

Hamas abducted around 250 hostages during its October 7 attack on Israel, which started the current war. Around half of the captives were traded for Palestinian prisoners during a week-long ceasefire in November, and seven more have been rescued during raids by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The latest rescue mission took place last week in Nuseirat in central Gaza, resulting in the release of four captives, including Russian citizen Andrey Kozlov.

IDF spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said on Saturday that some 120 hostages were still being held by Hamas, with no clear information on whether all of them are still alive.

Netanyahu has been facing intense criticism for his failure to free the hostages, with families of the captives having staged mass protests calling for government action. The Israeli prime minister has refused to strike an agreement with Hamas with a view to securing the release of the captives, insisting that all of the militants should be eliminated. Hamas, in turn, has been demanding a lasting ceasefire and a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.


READ MORE: Biden’s Gaza peace push suffers another setback

In late May, US President Joe Biden proposed a Gaza peace proposal, which envisaged the release of all remaining hostages in return for Israel accepting first a six-week truce with Hamas, and then a permanent ceasefire and eventual withdrawal of its forces from Gaza. However, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh signaled last week that the group was not happy with the phased nature of the plan. Netanyahu also reportedly rejected the proposal, saying there would be no permanent ceasefire until Hamas is destroyed.

 

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