TEL AVIV – The Israeli government is in talks to try to free hostages held in Gaza for more than a month while pressing ahead with a military campaign that could put their lives at risk or result in a hostage rescue.
“The clock is ticking,” a diplomat with knowledge of the hostage talks told NBC News. “It has to happen this week because Israel is moving deeper and deeper into Gaza. If you put too much pressure on Hamas, they may think they have nothing to lose. The closer the Israelis get, the more they will think they don’t need the hostage talks. “
Israel’s ongoing ground attack on Gaza is fueling growing outrage as hospitals in the northern strip face an increasingly serious situation.
A possible agreement, according to the diplomat, could include “between 10 and 20 hostages initially released, a pause of 1 to 3 days, the provision of aid, including fuel, and the release of Palestinian women and children.”
But the diplomat said: “The last time the talks stalled It was because Israel wanted a list of hostages and Hamas was questioning the sequence of events, such as when the fuel would be supplied. “The sequence of events remains a problem.”
Talks to free the more than 200 hostages have been underway since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, killing hundreds. Five hostages, including two women taken from a kibbutz near Gaza, an american mother and daughter and Private Ori Megidish— have been rescued or released.
Speaking Sunday on “Meet the Press,” the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu He said the government knows “a lot” about where the hostages are, but gave no further details.
Michael Levy who said he was told that his brother Or is one of the hostages, said he tries to “keep the optimistic part stronger, but it’s not easy, especially the fact that we see how Hamas is trying to play with our minds and release those videos.” “. and tell the hostages what to say.”
One of those videos released on October 30 by Hamas’s military wing, showed Yelena Troufanov, 50, sitting to the right of two other women.
Her husband, Vitaly, was murdered and her mother, Irena; Her son, Sasha, and his girlfriend, Sapir, were kidnapped. The video showed Sapir being taken to Gaza on the back of a motorcycle.
With no family to ask for their return, their friends, Shiri Grosbard and Ilan Shusterman, speak for them.
“We have a saying in Hebrew,” Grosbard said, “that basically means we stand up for each other, we stand up for each other. “And this family has no one to speak for them, because they have all been killed or kidnapped, so we are here because they will not be forgotten.”
He added: “We are their family for now, until they come back, until they come home.”
On Saturday, Sasha Troufanov turned 28 years old. His friends lit candles on a birthday cake for him and promised not to blow them out until he returned. And they hoped his grandmother, Irena, a retired pediatrician, would stay close to the children to help care for them.
Grosbard shared a message for the family: “Please stay safe and take care of yourselves, and know that everyone here is doing everything they can to get you home safely.”
A Biden administration official told NBC News on Sunday that a possible deal being discussed includes the release of about 80 women and children in exchange for the release of Palestinian women and teenagers detained in Israel. The United States is also exploring other options, according to the official, and it is not certain that any will succeed.
The Israel Defense Forces have said there are 239 hostages.
The diplomat with knowledge of the talks said: “We currently have no clear idea of how many are being held,” while the United Nations says holding hostages and denying access to them is a war crime.
The Biden Administration has been pressuring the Israeli government to pause the fighting to allow the release of the hostages, but Netanyahu has reiterated that there will be no ceasefire without the release of the hostages.
On “Meet the Press,” Netanyahu said: “We were not close at all until we started the ground invasion. We heard that there is an imminent deal of this guy or that. It was nothing, but the moment we started the ground invasion operation “Things started to change.”
Netanyahu said there “could be” a possible hostage deal, “as a result of pressure, military pressure.”
Not all families and friends believe the military campaign is the right approach. Yonatan Zeigen’s mother, Vivian Silver, 74, was kidnapped from Kibbutz Be’eri.
“When people say here, there is no ceasefire without all the hostages,” he said, “in my opinion, we are really saying that we are giving time for the military solution. Take your time, win, whatever that means.” means, and ‘We’ll see who’s left of the hostages.’
The lack of information is aggravating the agony of families.
“I feel like it’s not my life, it’s someone else’s life,” Michael Levy said. “I feel like I’m an actor in a movie or something. I don’t feel like this is happening to me or my family.”