US media: Israel, Hamas close to deal to pause fighting, free some hostages

A US newspaper has reported Israel and Hamas are close to a deal in which the Palestinian Islamic group will free some hostages in the Gaza Strip in exchange for a pause in fighting between the two sides.

The Washington Post on Saturday said the deal could lead to the release of dozens of women and children held in the enclave in return for a five-day pause.

The newspaper said the United States was brokering the agreement, and quoted sources close to the matter as saying the hostage release could "begin within the next several days -- barring last-minute hitches" and that it could "lead to the first sustained pause in conflict in Gaza."

The report said, "A detailed, six-page set of written terms would require all parties to the conflict to freeze combat operations for at least five days while an initial 50 or more hostages are released in smaller batches every 24 hours."

It added that it was "not immediately clear how many of the 239 people believed to be in captivity in Gaza" would be released under the deal.

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said no deal had been made yet but work continues to reach one.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden told a news conference that his country was negotiating to secure a period needed for hostage release, suggesting that the US was trying to persuade Israel to agree to a pause in fighting.