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Hostage negotiations continue as the scheduled 4-day truce is set to end


It's the final day of a four-day pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas, and there are signs the cease-fire could be extended. Yesterday, Hamas indicated it was open to an offer from Israel to add one day to the cease-fire for every 10 hostages released by Hamas. So far, the militant group that controls Gaza has agreed to release 58 of the estimated 240 hostages it captured on October 7. In exchange, Israel has agreed to free 150 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons and to allow much-needed aid to reach the enclave. For the latest on these ongoing negotiations, I'm joined by National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby. John, so can we expect the cease-fire to last beyond today? What are the chances of that happening?

JOHN KIRBY: Well, we don't know. We certainly hope that it can be. Today is the fourth and final day of this arrangement. We're looking forward to seeing the list of those who will coming out today. We certainly hope that two American women are on that list. And as you heard the president say yesterday, Israel has committed to an - extending the pause for additional hostages to come out. Really, the onus is going to be on Hamas. Now, as you indicated, they have said that they'd be interested in pursuing an extension, but really, it's going to be up to them to be able to come up with those 10 hostages per day.

MARTÍNEZ: Is there any particular time today when Hamas would have to commit to for this to even happen?

KIRBY: I'm not aware of a particular time on the clock, like a deadline, today. I think, obviously, as the day goes on, we'd like to see some better clarity whether this can be extended tomorrow and the day after that. But we'll have to - we're just going to have to wait and see. This is literally - and I don't mean to - this isn't hyperbole. I mean, we have been working this literally by the hour, and that will be no different today.

MARTÍNEZ: And can it be any 10 of the hostages? Does - or does there have to be a specific group of 10 people?

KIRBY: That'll have to be arranged between Israel and Hamas in terms of - if there's an additional 10 - who that's going to be and who qualifies to be in that group. That would something - that's something that would have to be worked out between the two.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. What is President Biden doing to try to extend the pause, to try to maybe put his thumb on the scale on this?

KIRBY: Well, he's been personally engaged well before this deal got implemented. In fact, he was really responsible for getting it over the finish line. And then in the last three days and, of course, throughout today, he'll be personally involved as well, engaged with the leaders. Yesterday, he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu and the emir of Qatar, again to make sure that we are moving forward as much as possible and to explore the idea of an extension on Hamas' part and on Israel's part. That was one of the prime focuses of his communications yesterday, so personally engaged, and I would fully expect him to stay personally engaged going forward.

MARTÍNEZ: And just to be clear, from Israel's side, is your understanding that if Hamas does agree to the additional 10 hostages, that the pause would be extended for one more day on Israel's part?

KIRBY: Yes, sir.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Now, we're expecting Hamas to release more hostages today. What can you tell us about the people that are going to be released?

KIRBY: Well, again, this is the first increment of more than 50, which are all women and children. So we have every expectation that the hostages to be released today will be female. Now, we don't know exactly who they are. We haven't seen the list yet, and we don't know what the mix is between adult females or children, but we would expect they're all going to be women and children coming out today. We normally get a sense - so far, anyway - in the midmorning hours about what that list is going to look like and who's going to be on it. And then, of course, we do everything we can to monitor the actual exchanges as best as possible. So hopefully today, there'll be yet another installment of hostages coming out, the last installment of this particular deal.

MARTÍNEZ: What do you think it's going to take to get every single surviving hostage released?

KIRBY: Well, it's going to take a couple of things. No. 1, commitment on both sides, leadership on both sides to agree to extending the pause. And the pause is also - and don't forget, it gives us an opportunity when there's a pause in fighting to surge in much-needed humanitarian assistance - food, water, medicine and now fuel. The Israelis have agreed to let fuel go in - tens of thousands of gallons per day, which is really incredibly important. So we - you need commitment on both sides. And you also need Hamas to be able to identify, locate and secure all the hostages that it or other groups are holding.

MARTÍNEZ: That's National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby. Thank you.

KIRBY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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