US says still pushing for Israel-Hamas deal after reported breakthrough
The United States said it is still working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas after a reported tentative agreement to free women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting.
"We have not reached a deal yet, but we continue to work hard to get to a deal," White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said on X, formerly Twitter, in response to the Washington Post reporting a deal had been agreed.
The Post said a detailed, six-page agreement could mean hostage releases begin within days and could also lead to the first sustained pause in the conflict in Gaza.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said all parties would halt combat operations for at least five days while some hostages were released in batches, with overhead surveillance monitoring movement to police the pause.
But the White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with its message on X to deny any major breakthrough.
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 about 240 people taken hostage.
The army's relentless air and ground campaign has since killed 12,300 people, more than 5,000 of them children.
U.S. President Joe Biden's main adviser on the Middle East said earlier Saturday there would be a "significant pause" in the war if hostages held by militants in Gaza were freed.
"The surge in humanitarian relief, the surge in fuel, the pause... will come when hostages are released," Brett McGurk told a security conference in Bahrain.
The release of a large number of hostages would result in "a significant pause... and a massive surge of humanitarian relief," he said.
McGurk said Biden had discussed the issue on Friday evening with the ruler of the Gulf nation of Qatar, which is leading mediation efforts toward a ceasefire and release of the captives.
This week Biden said he was "mildly hopeful" of reaching a deal to free the hostages, believed to include about 10 U.S. citizens.
Israel has refused to heed calls for a ceasefire before all the hostages are released.