“Significant progress” in Qatar-led negotiations for the release of Hamas hostages

Diplomatic sources familiar with the ongoing negotiations to free the Hamas hostages told CNN that “significant progress” has been made in this regard, “but there are still open questions.”

The source told the US network: “The negotiations are going very well… We have reached a turning point,” stressing that there are still problems, but talks continue, and adding: “And we are still optimistic.”

Another person familiar with the effort to free the abducted people said the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Barbara Leaf, is in Doha holding meetings with Qatar’s leadership.

In response to a question about the status of the negotiations, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Galant commented at a press conference on Thursday, saying: “Every channel is a potential channel.”

He added: “I have confidence in the State of Israel and the Israeli army… We will continue to make every effort to return the hostages.”

The Israeli army announces a new toll of abductees in the Gaza Strip

The Israeli army announced on Friday that the number of people held hostage in the Gaza Strip following the unprecedented attacks launched by Hamas on October 7 has risen to 229, most of them civilians, including many foreigners.

Meanwhile, a Western official familiar with the negotiations told CNN that there is still optimism that the captors can be released, but there is also recognition that “time is running out.”

The official indicated that talks had made progress, but indicated that Israel would not postpone a ground operation for a longer period.

The Israeli army announced on Friday that the number of people confirmed abducted after the unprecedented attacks launched by Hamas on October 7 had risen to 229, including many foreigners.

On Thursday, Qatar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Al-Khulaifi, said that the possibility of releasing “all civilians” abducted by Hamas in the Gaza Strip “is possible within a few days” if “the fighting ends”.

In an interview with the British network Sky News, Al-Khulaifi, one of Hamas’ negotiators on the issue of the release of the abductees, explained that “the negotiations are difficult”, underlining at the same time that “progress is being made”.

Al-Khulaifi said in his statements that he was “optimistic about achieving a breakthrough in the kidnappers’ dossier”, adding: “Our goal is to release all civilian hostages. This is what we are working on and want to achieve.”

Hamas has in fact released only 4 kidnappers, an American mother and her daughter, and two elderly Israeli women.

Hamas has launched attacks on Israel, including infiltrating hundreds of its militants into towns surrounding Gaza and firing thousands of rockets, killing more than 1,400 people.

Qatar says that in this case the release of “all civilians” kidnapped by Hamas is “possible”.

Qatar has confirmed the possibility of releasing all civilians detained by Hamas in the Gaza Strip within a few days, provided the war ends.

Israel responded to the attacks with intense bombing of Gaza, killing more than 7,326 Palestinians, according to the latest count by Palestinian health authorities.

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