Hamas hostages ‘bargaining chips, not human beings, for leaders on both sides of conflict’

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday that a truce agreement with Israel was in sight, raising hopes that dozens of people taken hostage in the October 7 attacks could be released from war-torn Gaza. A foreign ministry spokesman in Qatar, a key mediator, said negotiations had reached a “critical and final stage” and that “we are at the closest point” yet in reaching a deal. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has vowed to destroy Hamas, late Monday met families of some of the 240 hostages but was tightlipped about a potential breakthrough. In Washington, US President Joe Biden indicated earlier that a deal was near, while his national security spokesman John Kirby said: “We believe we’re closer than we’ve ever been, so we’re hopeful.” Kirby, though, cautioned that “there’s still work to be done” and told reporters that “nothing is done until it’s all done”. Hopes of a breakthrough have been mounting since Qatar on Sunday said only “minor” practical issues remained for a deal. Speculation grew further when the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is often involved in prisoner exchanges and hostage releases, said on Monday that its president had met Haniyeh in Qatar. As hopes mount for hostages following Hamas chief declaration that a truce deal was near, FRANCE 24’s François Picard is joined by Scott Lucas, Political Analyst and Professor of International Politics at the Clinton Institute, University College Dublin.

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