US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed a deal to secure the release of hostages in Gaza at length during their conversation on Sunday, a senior administration official quoted by CNN said.
The officials cautioned that while a framework is in place, gaps remain.
The call between Biden and Netanyahu lasted about 45 minutes, and two-thirds of the call was focused on the release of hostages, according to the senior Biden administration official.
“There are certainly gaps that need to be closed. Some of them are significant, but there has been real progress over the last few weeks, and we are now seeking to do all we possibly can to capitalize on it,” the official said.
According to Ynet, the senior US official said that Biden is determined to bring about a hostage release deal and that, as far as he is concerned, "failure is not an option".
The official added that Biden is planning to deal with Netanyahu through "tough love", in relation to Biden’s request that Israel take part in talks in Cairo on a hostage release deal.
The White House said earlier on Sunday that, in their first call since January 19, Biden and Netanyahu discussed Israel’s ongoing campaign in Gaza, the return of hostages held by Hamas, and Israel’s anticipated ground assault on the city of Rafah, which has drawn concern from the US and from others in the region.
“The President reaffirmed our shared goal to see Hamas defeated and to ensure the long-term security of Israel and its people. The President and the Prime Minister discussed ongoing efforts to secure the release of all remaining hostages held by Hamas,” a statement from the White House said.
On Friday, it was reported that Israel has decided to reject most of Hamas’ demands for a new hostage release deal.
According to the report, the War Cabinet agreed that Hamas' demands are ridiculous and unrealistic, and therefore there is no point in attending talks in Egypt until those demands are watered down.
On Tuesday, Hamas finally provided the Qatari government with its response to the proposed deal after days of dragging its feet.
As a precondition for any arrangement, Hamas demands a complete halt to Israeli military activity in Gaza, including its airspace.
The hostages to be freed in the first stage would be women, children, the sick, and the elderly, in exchange for the release of all Palestinian Arab women, children, and men aged 50 and above currently held by Israel.
This is in addition to approximately 1,500 other Palestinian Arab prisoners held by Israel, including 500 convicted of murder who are serving life or lengthy sentences.
Despite all the conditions that Hamas set for a deal, a senior Biden administration official told NBC News that the response provided by the terrorist organization was “generally positive.”