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DOHA: Negotiations to free hostages seized in Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel are at their “closest point” to a deal and have reached the “final stage”, mediator Qatar said Tuesday.

“We are at the closest point we ever had been in reaching an agreement,” foreign ministry spokesperson Majed Al-Ansari said, adding negotiations have reached a “critical and final stage”.

Qatar has helped broker talks aiming to free some of the 240 hostages in return for a temporary ceasefire, a mediation effort that has so far led to the release of four hostages.

“We are very optimistic, very hopeful,” Al-Ansari told a briefing.

“But we are also very keen for this mediation to succeed in reaching a humanitarian truce,” he said.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas in response to the October 7 attacks, which Israeli officials say killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

Israel has launched a relentless retaliatory bombing campaign and ground offensive in Gaza, killing more than 13,300 people, two thirds of them women or children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

The United States said Saturday it was still working to secure a deal between Israel and Hamas after the Washington Post reported there was a tentative agreement to free women and children hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting.

Citing unnamed sources, the newspaper said all parties would halt combat operations for at least five days while some hostages were to be released in batches.

The White House quickly responded on Saturday evening with a message on X, formerly Twitter, to deny any major breakthrough.

“We have seen a lot of the leaks or the statements here and there but we would prefer to keep our statements until we have a final decision on the agreement,” Al-Ansari said.

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