Qatar has suggested forming a small cell between the US and Israel to work on the hostage issue. The idea was proposed by a senior US administration official during a briefing with reporters. This initiative comes after weeks of negotiations between the US, Qatar, Israel, and Egypt, which led to a deal that would see the release of at least 50 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas.
The hostage issue became a central component of US President Joe Biden’s multiple phone calls and face-to-face meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The US and Israel have agreed to a humanitarian pause, allowing 50 civilian hostages in the Gaza Strip to be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners. The first wave of hostages could include three Americans.
National security adviser Jake Sullivan turned to two of his top lieutenants, McGurk and Josh Geltzer, to coordinate the negotiations. McGurk held daily morning calls with the prime minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, and reported back to Sullivan and Biden. The US side agreed to the deal and demanded proof of life or identifying information for women and children held by Hamas. The Israeli government has emphasized that despite this deal, the war will not end until it has achieved all of its goals, including releasing all hostages and eliminating Hamas.
The truce will be extended an extra day for every additional 10 hostages released by Hamas. The United States and Egypt were also involved in stop-and-go talks to free some of the roughly 240 hostages held by Hamas and other militants in Gaza. An operation center is expected to be set up in Doha, Qatar, to monitor the transfers, and the neutral International Committee of the Red Cross is expected to take custody of the released hostages. The US remains committed to securing the release of every hostage and their swift reunification with their families.