US sees ‘real progress’ on framework for release of hostages in Gaza - GulfToday

US sees ‘real progress’ on framework for release of hostages in Gaza


US President Joe Biden attends an event. File photo

Negotiators working on a phased framework deal to secure the release of the remaining hostages held by the Palestinian group Hamas in Gaza have made "real progress" over the last few weeks, a senior Biden administration official said on Sunday.

The hostage release deal was the main focus of a 45-minute telephone call between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, although there were still some "significant" gaps to close, the official said, adding, "It's pretty much there."

Biden in the call stressed that the United States did not support Israeli military operations in Rafah under the current circumstances, with some 1.3 million people sheltering there "with nowhere to go."

In an another report, Biden is hosting Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Washington Monday and the two leaders are expected to discuss the ongoing effort to free hostages held in Gaza, and growing concern over a possible Israeli military operation in the port city of Rafah.

Meanwhile, Hamas warned Israel on Sunday that a ground offensive in Rafah, crowded with displaced Gazans, would imperil future hostage releases, while Biden urged the protection of civilians in the besieged territory.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II speaks during a meeting.

Foreign governments, including Israel's key ally the United States, and aid groups have voiced deep concern over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow to extend operations into the far-southern Gaza city.

It is the first meeting between the allies since three American troops were killed last month in a drone strike against a US base in Jordan. Biden blamed Iran-backed militias for the fatalities, the first for the US after months of strikes by such groups against American forces across the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

The meeting with King Abdullah II comes as Biden and his aides are working to broker another pause in Israel's war against Hamas in order to send humanitarian aid and supplies into the region and get hostages out. The White House faces growing criticism from Arab-Americans over the administration's continued support for Israel in the face of growing casualties in Gaza.

Leaders discuss the ongoing effort to free hostages held in Gaza.

It appeared a deal for another pause in the fighting was getting close. A senior US administration official said on Sunday that after weeks of shuttle diplomacy and phone conversations, a framework was essentially in place for a deal that could see the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza in exchange for a halt to fighting.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, acknowledged that gaps remained but declined to specify what they are. The official said Israeli military pressure on Hamas in Khan Younis over the last several week s has helped bring the militant group closer to accepting an agreement. The potential for an agreement took up the majority of Biden’s call Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The official said the two leaders also had a significant back and forth about the potential expansion of Israeli military operations into Rafah and that Biden reiterated US opposition to the idea under the "current conditions” while more than 1.3 million people are sheltering there.



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