JERUSALEM, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned his war cabinet on Tuesday amid growing signs of an imminent deal on the release of hostages who were taken by Hamas militants to the Gaza Strip more than six weeks ago.
“We are making progress. I don’t think it’s worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon,” Netanyahu told reservists without providing further details.
His office said that “in light of developments in the matter of the release of our hostages,” he would agree to his war cabinet at 6 pm (1600 GMT) followed by meetings of his wider security cabinet and the full cabinet.
Talk of an imminent hostage deal has swirled for days. Hamas took about 240 shelters, including children and elderly people, during its Oct. 7 rampage into Israel that killed 1,200 people, according to Israel’s tally.
Kamelia Hoter Ishay, the grandmother of 13-year-old Gali Tarshansky, who is believed to be held in Gaza, said she was trying not to follow all the deal reports because she was afraid of being disappointed.
“The only thing I am waiting for is the phone call from my daughter, Reuma, who will say, ‘Gali is coming back.’ And then I’ll know that it’s really over and I can breathe a sigh of relief and say that’s it, it’s over,” she said.
Tarshansky was kidnapped from his home in Kibbutz Beeri, one of the communities worst hit by Hamas.
In a sign it was expecting hosts to return soon, Netanyahu’s office said it was agreeing the directors-general of all the relevant government ministries to prepare for treatment and aid, in light of the latest developments.
A source familiar with the negotiations said Hamas would free 50 women and children, including some foreigners, while Israel releases 150 Palestinian prisoners, mostly women and minors, during a temporary four-day ceasefire.
A US official briefed on the discussions facilitated by Qatar said the deal would include 50 hostages, mostly women and children, in exchange for 150 Palestinian prisoners and a pause in the fighting of four or five days.
There is a tentative deal but it’s not final until everything is agreed upon, the US official said.
“We believe we are very, very close to having a deal,” the official told Reuters. “There is still a lot of work to be done, still approval that has to be achieved, but we believe we are very close.”
Reporting by Steven Scheer, Henriette Chacar, Maayan Lubell, Steve Holland, Jonathan Landay and Eli Berlzon; Editing by Howard Goller
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