Israel, Hamas and the US are on the cusp of reaching a deal that could be announced as soon as Tuesday for Hamas to release 50 women and children hostages that the militant group took during the October 7 terror attack on Israel, in exchange for a four-to-five day pause in fighting and three Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons for every hostage released, according to sources familiar with the negotiations.
The deal could be announced as soon as Tuesday, two Israeli sources said. US officials close to the negotiations stressed that while the deal is not done, they are increasingly optimistic and believe the many weeks of difficult work is about to pay off with a hostage release.
“It’s very close,” a senior US official told CNN.
An agreement would prompt the first sustained ceasefire and major de-escalatory step from Israel since the war began.
The hostages to be released are of various nationalities, according to the person familiar, who said the Americans are hoping one of them will be 3-year-old toddler Abigail Edan – the youngest American hostage – whose parents were killed by Hamas. It was not immediately clear how many more – if any – American citizens would be among the 50 hostages that Hamas would initially release under the deal.
During the days that the fighting is paused, Israel would stop flying surveillance drones over northern Gaza for at least six hours each day, one person familiar with the talks said.
Under the forthcoming agreement, Hamas would also gather up any additional women and children hostages during the period that fighting has paused – something the group has insisted that it cannot do until a sustained ceasefire is in place. The temporary ceasefire would potentially be extended beyond that for more hostages to be released.
Hamas has also demanded hundreds of trucks of aid, much of it fuel, as part of the negotiations. Fuel is key to running its military operations and ventilating the group’s network of underground tunnels in Gaza.
The deal would come after weeks of painstaking negotiations between Israel, Hamas and the US, with Qatar playing a major mediating role. The implementation of the agreement would not begin immediately and could take at least a day to start, the person familiar said, in part because there are legal procedures that Israel must follow before releasing any Palestinian prisoners. Those prisoners are expected to be women and adolescents.
The release of the prisoners needs to be approved by the Israeli government but isn’t expected to be an obstacle, one source said.
Diplomatic sources and government officials, including US President Joe Biden, over the last few days have struck a more optimistic tone about the progress of talks. But the various parties involved had also stressed that any agreement could be derailed by Hamas and developments on the ground in Gaza.
On Monday night, Hamas’ leader said in a statement that the sides are “close to reaching a truce agreement.”
The latest momentum comes just one day after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the war cabinet met with hostage families.
Israel has said there are more than 200 hostages believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza. After the women and children are released, further negotiations to secure the release of other categories of hostages are likely to commence.
Senior US officials have been working intensively to secure the release of hostages for several weeks, with the understanding that a handful of American hostages were taken hostage by Hamas. Biden has spoken directly with Netanyahu, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi about the issue.
Top Biden officials including national security adviser Jake Sullivan, NSC Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and CIA Director Bill Burns have been engaged “almost hourly” on the efforts to get the hostages out of Gaza, sources said. McGurk most recently traveled to the Middle East for a multi-country trip aimed in large part at making progress on releasing the hostages.
This story has been updated with additional information.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins contributed to this report.