Skip to main content

US weighing unilateral hostage deal with Hamas: Report

The US is considering a deal to free American hostages in Gaza, but is uncertain what it can offer Hamas
The aircraft of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken disembarks his aircraft as he arrives at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv, on 10 June 2024 (JACK GUEZ / POOL / AFP)

United States officials are weighing whether to strike a unilateral deal with Hamas to free five American hostages in Gaza if a ceasefire deal is not reached, according to a report by NBC news.

The report, citing two current and two former US officials, said the administration is considering using Qatar to negotiate with Hamas in talks that would not include Israel.

The deliberations come more than one week after US President Joe Biden announced a three-phase ceasefire proposal that he said would end the war on Gaza and lead to a hostage exchange.

But the deal has stalled with Hamas saying the agreement as laid out by Biden doesn't guarantee the war on Gaza will end. For its part, Israel said it will continue to wage war on Gaza until it destroys Hamas's governing and military capabilities in the besieged enclave.

NBC cited one former US official who said the US is considering a unilateral deal as a potential way to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reach a full agreement.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling in the region to press for a ceasefire deal. After meeting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Cairo, Blinken blamed Hamas for not accepting the ceasefire proposal Biden announced on 31 May.

"My message to governments throughout the region, to people throughout the region, is - if you want a ceasefire, press Hamas to say 'yes'," Blinken said before departing Egypt for Israel.

US weighs offer to Hamas

The US says Israel has agreed to the ceasefire proposal Biden outlined publicly, but Middle East Eye reported that the text of the proposal received by Hamas does not guarantee a permanent cessation of hostilities.

On Monday, Netanyahu's office released a statement saying that Israel rejected Hamas's demand to "commit to stopping the war without achieving our goals of eliminating Hamas".

Israeli officials believe Hamas is holding around 120 captives and that 43 of them have died in captivity. On Saturday, Israel rescued four captives in a deadly operation that killed over 270 Palestinians and injured nearly 800 others.

US weighs plan for Centcom to coordinate directly with Palestinian Authority's security forces
Read More »

US officials estimate that Hamas has five American hostages and the remains of three other US citizens killed during the 7 October attack on southern Israel.

The basis of the wider deal the US has proposed rests on a swap of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails for captives held in Gaza. The Biden administration hopes that the exchange and six-week ceasefire will transition to a permanent cessation of hostilities in phase two of the three-part deal. 

One problem posed by a US-Hamas deal is that the Biden administration is unsure what it could offer Hamas in exchange for US citizens, according to the report.

The officials believe that Hamas could see an upside to a unilateral deal if they believe it would underscore the strain in ties between the US and Israel while putting additional domestic pressure on Netanyahu to strike a deal.

NBC said the five Americans held in Gaza are: Edan Alexander, Sagui Dekel-Chen, Hersh Goldberg-Polin, Omer Neutra and Keith Siegel. The three Americans believed to have been killed on 7 October and taken back to Gaza are Itay Chen, Judy Weinstein and Gad Haggai.

Goldberg-Polin's parents issued a statement after the NBC story saying they supported unilateral talks.

"We have seen the reports that the US administration is considering negotiating directly with Hamas on freeing US citizens from captivity in Gaza. We welcome any negotiations that will lead to the return home of our loved ones who have been in captivity for over eight months," they said.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.