Feb 11, 2024 - World

Biden urges Bibi to try to find ways to close gaps in Gaza hostage deal talks

Families and supporters of hostages hostages held by Palestinian militants hold a demonstration outside the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on Dec. 15. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

Families and supporters of hostages hostages held by Palestinian militants hold a demonstration outside the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv on Dec. 15. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in their call on Sunday to try to find ways to close the gaps with Hamas in the talks to get a new hostage deal, a senior U.S. official said in a briefing with reporters.

Why it matters: Sunday's call took place two days before CIA director Bill Burns is expected to arrive in Egypt for a critical meeting with Qatari, Egyptian and Israeli officials over the hostage deal.

  • Israel on Thursday told Egyptian and Qatari mediators that while it rejects most of Hamas' demands in its response to the latest hostage deal proposal, it is ready to launch negotiations based on the original proposal put forth about two weeks ago.
  • That proposal was centered on a framework for a three-phase deal that included a six-week ceasefire and the release of a set number of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Hamas freeing 35 to 40 Israeli hostages in the first stage.

Behind the scenes: A senior U.S. official said that two-thirds of the conversation between Biden and Netanyahu on Sunday dealt with the efforts to secure the release of the hostages.

  • The president made it clear to Netanyahu he feels deeply that if it is possible to close the gaps with Hamas, he would like to see this happen so that a deal could be achieved, the official said.
  • "We believe that there is a chance, so every effort should be made to make it happen," the official added.
  • "The framework of the agreement is ready," the U.S. official said. "Some of the gaps are big but we want to take advantage of the progress to get a deal."
  • An agreement would not only secure the release of the remaining hostages held in Gaza, but it would also include a pause in fighting that would allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to the official.

The big picture: The U.S. official acknowledged that Hamas must also face pressure to close the gaps.

  • "There will be no deal without Hamas being under pressure. We made that clear to Egypt. This is a fact," the U.S. official noted.

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