‘Significant progress’ on Qatar-led negotiations to release hostages from Hamas but issues remain

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“Negotiations are going very well. We have a breakthrough,” the source said.

“There are issues still remaining, but talks are ongoing, and we remain hopeful,” the source added.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Barbara Leaf is in Doha for meetings with Qatar’s leadership, a person familiar with the meetings said.

Asked about the status of the negotiations Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant commented at a news conference on Thursday that “every channel is a possible channel.”

“One thing should be clear – we have a goal and I trust the State of Israel and the IDF… and we’ll keep doing every effort to bring the hostages and the missing back,” Gallant said.

Complete blockade

Hamas abducted more than 200 people and killed 1,400 others, including soldiers and civilians, in southern Israel on October 7. The hostages include nationals from countries including Mexico, Brazil, the United States, Germany and Thailand – as well as Israeli civilians and soldiers. The large-scale incursion represented the most deadly attack by militants in Israel’s 75-year history, and Israeli authorities have faced strong criticism for having failed to anticipate it.

In response, Israel launched a heavy bombardment of Gaza and imposed a complete blockade on the enclave. Israeli strikes have killed at least 7,028 Palestinians, including 2,913 children, according to a report by the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Ministry of Health. About 1,600 people are missing under the rubble of flattened buildings, with many of them feared dead. The ministry said on Friday the actual death toll in Gaza is likely to be much higher.

Human Rights Watch said on Monday Israel’s “collective punishment” of Palestinians in Gaza amounts to a war crime.

Qatar and Egypt have been mediating between Israel, the US and Hamas to release the hostages held by the militant group. Four hostages – two Americans and two Israelis – have been freed so far.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged on Wednesday that he will “have to give answers” for his government’s intelligence failures. The comments marked the first time he has talked about his own role in the security breakdownsince October 7.

This story is developing and will be updated.

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