US Efforts to Secure Hostage Release in Gaza Complicated by Ground Operations

In a rapidly-evolving situation in Gaza, US officials are fervently working to secure the release of hostages, including American citizens, held by Hamas

by Faruk Imamovic
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US Efforts to Secure Hostage Release in Gaza Complicated by Ground Operations
© Getty Images News/Alexi J. Rosenfeld

In a rapidly-evolving situation in Gaza, US officials are fervently working to secure the release of hostages, including American citizens, held by Hamas. Their mission has become increasingly intricate with Israel expanding its ground operations in the region.

The Diplomatic Effort

The United States continues to participate in talks alongside Israel, Qatar, Egypt, and Hamas, aiming to free a substantial group of hostages from Gaza. Yet, the path to achieving this remains rocky, especially with Israel advancing its ground activities.

The Biden administration has consistently urged Israel to consider “humanitarian pauses,” which would allow civilians, including the hostages, safe passage out of Gaza and ensure aid reaches those in need. Speaking about the unpredictable nature of the unfolding events, a high-ranking US official disclosed to CNN that the likelihood of successfully extracting hostages might be "50/50." The official acknowledged the presence of the necessary parameters for a potential deal but lamented the slow pace of negotiations with Hamas, significantly mediated by the Qataris.

The delay is attributed to the lengthy transmission time of messages between Doha and Hamas. Majed Al-Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and adviser to the Qatari prime minister, emphasized the challenges.

A Strategy of Pressure

Despite the complications, Israel argues that a more aggressive ground offensive could place greater pressure on Hamas, potentially facilitating the release of the hostages. Echoing this sentiment, an unnamed US official suggested there might be some merit in this strategy.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to President Biden, expressed frustration at Hamas's reluctance to release the hostages. However, he remains hopeful, stating, "Even though we’ve started to see Israel moving on the ground, that has not changed our basic view that this has to remain a paramount priority that we have to keep working at”.

An insider familiar with the ongoing talks revealed the discussions might involve a prisoner exchange - freeing hostages in return for prisoners held by Israel. Furthermore, part of the negotiations include urging Hamas to open the Rafah gates for dual nationals wishing to depart Gaza.

“We are optimistic that the talks are headed more towards all civilian hostages,” Al-Ansari stated, emphasizing the fluidity and unpredictability of the situation. However, as discussions progress, skepticism remains regarding Hamas's commitment to the negotiations. As the senior US official candidly put it: "It’s Hamas after all”.

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