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US says hostage deal close; cabinet meets family reps

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US President Joe Biden believes a hostage deal is close to completion as the war cabinet meets with family representatives of the over 239 people Hamas seized in southern Israel. Qatar has played a mediator role in the negotiations. Unconfirmed reports suggest the deal could involve the release of 50 hostages, mainly women and children, in exchange for the release of Palestinian females and minors jailed for security concerns. Israel is reluctant to agree to a temporary pause in the fighting, fearing it could become permanent or allow Hamas to regroup. The US has evidence that Hamas has used a Gaza hospital as a command node.

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