Washington, United States of America (CNN) – A diplomatic source and another source close to the talks told CNN on Tuesday that Qatar “hopes to announce a deal as early as today” to release civilian hostages held by Hamas after its attack against Israel on July 7, in exchange for the cessation of fighting.
US officials close to the negotiations stressed that while no agreement has yet been reached, they are “increasingly optimistic and believe that the many weeks of hard work are about to bear fruit with the release of the hostages.”
“It’s very close,” a senior US official told CNN.
Two Israeli sources said: “The deal could be announced as early as today.” One of them explained that the release of prisoners requires the approval of the Israeli government, but this should not be an obstacle.
The agreement provides for the release of 50 women and children held hostage by Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel, in exchange for a cessation of fighting for 4-5 days, as well as 3 Palestinian prisoners for every civilian hostage released, according to to multiple sources.
Under the deal, Hamas will also take any additional women and children hostage while the fighting has stopped, something Hamas has insisted it cannot do until a full ceasefire is reached.
The temporary ceasefire will likely be extended further until more hostages are released.
According to an informed source, the hostages to be freed are of different nationalities, and one of those who the Americans hope will be freed first is the 3-year-old American girl Abigail Aidan, the youngest American hostage whose parents were killed.
A source said that during the days the fighting stops, Israel will stop flying reconnaissance drones over northern Gaza for at least six hours a day.
Diplomatic sources and government officials, including U.S. President Joe Biden, have struck a more optimistic tone in recent days about progress in the talks, but the diplomatic source indicates that a final agreement may be imminent. Any agreement could be undermined by developments on the ground in Gaza.