Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US media Sunday a deal could be afoot to free hostages held by Hamas in Gaza, but declined to provide details for fear of scuttling the potential plan.
“We heard that there was an impending deal of this kind or of that kind and then we learned that it was all hokum. But the minute we started the ground operation, that began to change,” Netanyahu told NBC show “Meet the Press.”
Asked whether there is a potential deal to free more of the hostages being held by Hamas militants, Netanyahu replied: “There could be.”
But the leader stopped short of providing specifics about any plan that might be coming together to free some or all of the 239 hostages that Israel says are being held captive.
“I think the less I say about it, the more I’ll increase the chances that it materializes,” he said.
Netanyahu has flatly rejected calls for a ceasefire in Gaza without release of the hostages.
In a series of appearances on US Sunday talk shows, he sought to make clear Israel was doing everything it can to rescue or secure release of those held captive.
Asked on CNN whether he agrees with the US position that an extended pause in Gaza fighting is needed in order to get the hostages released safely, Netanyahu said: “We don’t disagree with that. We need to get our hostages out.”
A Palestinian official in Gaza, however, laid the blame for inaction at Netanyahu’s feet.
“Netanyahu is responsible for the delay and obstacles in reaching a preliminary agreement on the release of several prisoners,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“He is not interested in finding them alive,” the source said. “He is only concerned with preserving his political future.”
White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC that there has been “active negotiation and conversations going on with our counterparts in the region” on a potential hostages deal.
But like Netanyahu, he stayed quiet on details.
“The less said publicly about these sensitive negotiations and conversations, probably the better,” Kirby said.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu also addressed the issue of Gaza’s hospitals, which have become trapped in the fighting, and in particular Al-Shifa, the Hamas-run territory’s largest hospital, which authorities say faces a catastrophic situation.
“There’s no reason why we can’t get the patients out of there,” the prime minister told CNN.
“We’re telling them to leave, and in fact we’re creating — helping them by creating safe corridors” through which patients and others can evacuate to areas of less fighting in southern Gaza, he said.
According to Netanyahu, some 100 patients have already been evacuated from Al-Shifa hospital.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)