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Biden believes Gaza hostage release deal is near

President Joe Biden pardons the National Thanksgiving Turkey
— Washington (AFP)

US President Joe Biden said Monday he believes a deal to free hostages in Gaza is close, as hopes grew for a Qatari-brokered accord to release some captives in exchange for a pause in fighting.

"I believe so," Biden, who was taking part in a Thanksgiving turkey pardoning ceremony at the White House, said when asked whether a hostage deal was near.

Biden then crossed his fingers to signal he hoped for good luck.

Qatar's prime minister said Sunday that a deal to free some of the 240 hostages that Hamas seized in its October 7 attack on Israel in return for a temporary ceasefire now hinges on "minor" practical issues.

The White House said the negotiations were in the "endgame" stage, but refused to give further details, saying it could jeopardize a successful outcome.

"We believe we're closer than we've ever been, so we're hopeful," National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

"But there's still work to be done. And nothing is done until it's all done. So we're going to keep working on this."

Kirby added that arrangements were still being made on all sides.

"When you hit go, you're counting on everybody to meet their commitments. And that's what we're doing," he said.

The Washington Post reported on Saturday there was a tentative agreement to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day pause in fighting.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and saw the hostages taken.

The army's relentless air and ground campaign has since killed 13,300 people, more than 5,000 of them children, according to the Hamas government which has ruled Gaza since 2007.