US says holding serious contacts for hostage deal; Senior officials in Israel say 'don't know of breakthrough'

The White House said that Biden's emissary discussed a hostage deal in Qatar: 'There are intense contacts, we hope they will bear fruit'; but according to Israeli political sources, 'If Hamas' demand is to stop fighting, there is nothing to talk about'; Meanwhile, Qatar announces hostages to receive medicines

Contrary to the pessimism broadcast by the leadership in Israel, in the United States they claimed that there have been in Qatar "very serious and intensive discussions" about a possible deal to release more hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.
Brett McGurk, U.S. President Joe Biden's envoy to the Middle East, was in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in recent days, and discussed a possible deal for the release of hostages.
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"We are hopeful it will bear fruit and bear fruit soon," White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday. U.S. and Qatari mediation brought about the release of over 100 hostages during a brief truce in late November.
Kirby said that McGurk is focusing on the six hostages who have American citizenship.
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עצרת להחזרת החטופים, כיכר החטופים בתל אביב
עצרת להחזרת החטופים, כיכר החטופים בתל אביב
Rally in Tel Aviv calls for the return of the hostages
(Photo: Tal Shachar)
Kirby told reporters during his daily briefing that Israel has moved to a phase of low-intensity fighting in the southern Gaza Strip, as well as in the north, and emphasized that the U.S. is preparing to expand humanitarian aid to the residents of the Gaza Strip.
In Israel, officials noted that they do not know of a breakthrough in the negotiations for the hostage deal that was discussed at the White House, and added that they are working hard to reduce the gaps. Political sources said that "the Qataris are pushing hard for another hostage deal, but if Hamas' demand continues to be a cessation of hostilities, then there is nothing to talk about. Israel would be happy to have an outline similar to the previous outline without giving up the other goals of the war."
In a debate held on Saturday night in the War Cabinet, the heads of the National Unity party, Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot, expressed pessimism about the way Israel has been working so far to release hostages and claimed that it must think outside the box, and give priority to their return even at the cost of stopping the war and only then complete the second war goal - defeating Hamas.
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ג'ון קירבי תדרוך עיתונאים הבית הלבן וושינגטון ארה"ב
ג'ון קירבי תדרוך עיתונאים הבית הלבן וושינגטון ארה"ב
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby briefs reporters
(Photo: Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein)
In the discussion, Eisenkot said: "We need to stop lying to ourselves, show courage and lead to a big deal that will bring the hostages home. Their time is running out and every day that passes puts their lives at risk. There is no point in continuing the same pattern in which they are walking like blind people, when in the meantime the hostages are there. This is a critical time to make courageous decisions, otherwise we have nothing to look for here."
Meanwhile, Qatar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that thanks to Qatari-French mediation, an agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas on the introduction of medicine and aid to Gaza. According to the ministry's statement, the agreement includes the delivery of medicines and aid trucks to the residents of Gaza in exchange for the delivery of medicines to the hostages being held in Gaza. The ministry spokesman said that the medicines and aid will arrive Wednesday in Al-Arish in North Sinai on a Qatari military plane and from there they will be transferred to Gaza.
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פליטים פלסטינים בתור למזון ב רפיח בצל עדויות על רעב ב רצועת עזה
פליטים פלסטינים בתור למזון ב רפיח בצל עדויות על רעב ב רצועת עזה
Palestinian refugees line up for food in Rafah
The Prime Minister's Office commented Tuesday evening on the Qatari ministry's announcement and said that: "On instruction from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and pursuant to the director of the Mossad's agreement with Qatar on providing medicines to the Israeli hostages, two Qatari Air Force planes are expected to fly tomorrow to Egypt with medicines that have been purchased in France, according to a list that was compiled in Israel, according to the medical needs of the hostages."
Netanyahu's office added that: "Upon the planes' arrival in Egypt, the medicines will be transferred by Qatari representatives to their final destination inside the Gaza Strip. Israel insists that all the medicines reach their destination."
CNN reported on Monday that the medicines will be transferred to the Ministry of Health in Gaza through the Rafah crossing which is supposed to find a solution to transfer the medicines to the hostages, through Hamas. According to CNN, the Red Cross will not be involved in the transfer of the medicines.
As part of Israel's effort to promote the release of the abductees, President Yitzhak Herzog and his wife Michal will take off Wednesday for a series of policy meetings at the World Economic Forum being held in Davos, Switzerland, in which senior officials from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are participating.
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סחורה בחאן יונס
סחורה בחאן יונס
Medical aid arrives in Khan Younis
(Photo: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
During the visit, the president will be joined by representatives of the hostages’ families, and will address the Forum and hold a series of diplomatic meetings. In addition, the First Lady will participate in a distinguished panel on the issue of the antisemitism around the world, together with Douglas Emhoff, second gentleman of the United States, and Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League.
"The central purpose of the president’s visit and meetings is to promote the issue and to increase political pressure to see the swift and safe return of all the hostages held by Hamas," his office said in a statement. In addition, the president will continue to reveal to world leaders in a clear and in-depth manner details of the atrocities committed by Hamas terrorists on October 7.
The president will also emphasize to the leaders the humanitarian efforts that Israel is making, which are an integral part of the overall campaign. He will stress the severity of the security threat faced by the State of Israel and the entire region, as long as the terrorist organization Hamas continues to control the Gaza Strip.
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