Netanyahu: Closer to hostage release than before ground operation

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is closer to releasing hostages captured by the Palestinian militant group Hamas than before their ground operation in Gaza.

“Well, we’re closer than we were before we began the ground action, because the ground action has put pressure on Hamas to achieve a cease-fire,” Netanyahu told CBS anchor Norah O’Donnell on Thursday.

“We’ll have a temporary cease-fire if we can get our hostages back,” Netanyahu added. “I don’t think it serves that purpose, for me to elaborate further on that.”

Israel began its ground invasion into Gaza last month in its ongoing conflict with Hamas that began in early October with an attack on Israel by the militant group in which about 239 hostages were taken. The attack also left 1,200 Israelis dead. 

A military response from Israel to the Hamas attack has also resulted in the deaths of over 11,200 Palestinians, including thousands of women and children, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. 

On Thursday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said that the U.S. is involved in “intense negotiations” on trying to get the hostages taken by Hamas released. He told CNN that the U.S. has a “team on the ground” that is working “by the hour” on a deal. 

“We are in some intense negotiations; hopefully they’ll come out the right way and we’ll have good news to talk about with multiple hostages getting free,” Kirby said. “But we don’t have a deal right now, and until we do, the less said the better.”

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