Israel-Hamas hostage deal: Only 'minor challenges' remain, Qatar PM says
"The challenges that remain in the negotiations are very minor compared to the bigger challenges, they are more logistical, they are more practical," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani told a joint press conference with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
Qatar has helped broker talks aiming to free some of the 240 hostages in return for a temporary ceasefire in war-hit Gaza, a mediation effort that has so far led to the release of four hostages.
"The deal is going through ups and downs from time to time throughout the last few weeks," the premier said.
"I think that I'm now more confident that we are close enough to reach a deal that can bring the people safely back to their homes."
Around 240 hostages were kidnapped during Hamas' surprise attack on Israel, which also killed 1,200 Israelis. Tel Aviv then went on to wage an indiscriminate and brutal military assault on Gaza that has so far killed 12,300 people, including 5,000 children.
Israel has imposed a complete siege on Gaza, depriving the territory's residents of water, food and fuel. It has also indiscriminately destroyed residential buildings, hospitals, schools, and places of worship.
For the past week, Tel Aviv forces have besieged Al-Shifa hospital, the medical facility largest in Gaza, putting the lives of patients and those seeking refuge in danger.
The United States said Saturday it was still working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas, after The Washington Post reported there was a tentative agreement to free women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a pause in fighting.
Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said a five-day ceasefire would be put in place while some hostages were to be released in batches.
The White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with a message on X, formerly Twitter, to deny any major breakthrough.
Thani said on Sunday that it was "counterproductive to see leaks about the negotiations coming out in the media before sealing the deal".
Biden said on Thursday that he was "mildly hopeful" of reaching a deal to free the hostages, believed to include about 10 US citizens.
Israel has so far refused to heed calls for a humanitarian ceasefire - which has been urged by multiple nations and top rights groups - before all the captives are released.