The US seeks to delay Israel’s ground invasion to allow more time for hostage negotiations
And the U.S. government has pressed Israel to delay its upcoming operation in Gaza to allow Hamas to release hostages and allow aid to flow into Gaza, according to two sources with knowledge of the negotiations.
Hamas released two Americans held captive on Friday, signaling the possibility of freeing more of the nearly 200 people believed to have been held captive by the militant group following its deadly attacks two weeks ago.
“The government urged Israeli leaders to delay it because of progress on the hostage front” and the need to get aid trucks to Gaza, said a person familiar with the negotiations.
The National Security Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When US President Joe Biden was asked on Saturday if he was encouraging Israel to delay the invasion, he replied: “I’m talking to the Israelis.”
Qatar, which acts as an intermediary between the US and Israel, held talks with Hamas over the release of hostages kidnapped by Hamas two weeks ago. According to a diplomat briefed on the talks, they covered topics such as the arrival of much-needed aid to Gaza and the need for a temporary ceasefire to free prisoners. Israel has not indicated that it is considering a ceasefire.
Hamas doesn’t seem to have gotten anything concrete from Friday’s release of Judith Toy and Natalie Ronan.
The Al Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, said in a statement on Saturday that they were ready to release two “blocked individuals” identified by name. The statement said that the “same procedures” used to release Ranan will be used for the proposed new release.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office responded to the claim on Saturday night, saying he would not comment on “false Hamas propaganda” and that the Israeli government would “do whatever is necessary to bring home all the prisoners and missing people.”
An official in the Israeli prime minister’s office told CNN on Friday that after news of the Americans’ release, it may be an attempt by Hamas to minimize an Israeli military response.
“That (military) pressure is not going to go away just because they are released,” the official said. “This does not change the mission of eliminating Hamas.”
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