Negotiations to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas are close, and disagreements among parties have been narrowed amid intensive talks, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.
“We think that we are closer than we have been perhaps at any point since these negotiations began weeks ago — that there are areas of difference and disagreement that have been narrowed, if not closed out entirely,” Finer told CNN’s Jake Tapper, stressing that these are sensitive negotiations and there is no deal currently in place.
Finer declined to dive into the details of the talks, but said officials are working around the clock and that it remains a priority for US President Joe Biden.
Asked about how many hostages the US believes are still alive, Finer responded that they do not have exact numbers.
“One of the challenges associated with this is, we're not on the ground in Gaza, the United States. We are not in direct contact with Hamas. We do that only through intermediaries. And so, we don't have perfect fidelity about exact numbers of hostages, including numbers who are still alive,” Finer said.
“We do believe that there is a significant number of Americans being held, that those Americans are our highest priority, the president's highest priority. They include, by the way, a 3-year-old girl who is an orphan because her parents were murdered by Hamas on October 7,” he added, referencing the youngest American hostage known to be held in Gaza.
Some background: Finer's comments came soon after Qatar's prime minister — whose country is involved in the talks — also touted progress.
“The sticking points honestly at this stage are more practical, logistical, not really something that represents the core of the deal,” Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said.
Hamas abducted about 240 people during the October 7 attacks, according to Israeli officials, though official accounts have varied as intelligence about the situation in Gaza develops.