Biden believes deal is close to free hostages in Gaza

White House spokesman John Kirby said "we're closer than ever."

ByAlexandra Hutzler and Shannon Crawford
November 20, 2023, 5:11 PM

President Joe Biden said Monday he believes a deal is near to free some of the more than 200 hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Biden was participating in the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon at the White House when he was asked if an agreement was close.

"I believe so, but I'm not prepared to talk to --" Biden said before he was cut off by the reporter, who pressed him: "You believe so?"

"Yes," Biden replied. The president then crossed his fingers.

President Joe Biden takes part of the annual Thanksgiving Turkey pardon on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on Nov. 20, 2023.
Andrew Caballero-reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Hamas took more than 230 hostages, including Americans, during its Oct. 7 terror attack on Israeli communities, according to Israeli officials. Only a handful of hostages have been released in the weeks since, including a mother and daughter with dual American and Israeli citizenship and two elderly Israeli women.

The administration said that 10 Americans who are unaccounted for are believed to be among the hostages.

More than 1,200 people were killed in Israel during the initial terror attack and thousands more have been killed and injured in retaliatory operations in Gaza since, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby reiterated at the White House briefing Monday that the administration believes it's "closer than we've ever been," but said there are no updates to publicly discuss. He declined to get into detail when asked how many hostages may be released or whether women and children are being prioritized.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Nov. 20, 2023, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik/AP

"I want to be careful here, I don't want to negotiate in public, but if you're going to secure the release of hostages, and we certainly hope we're going to be able to do that soon, you've got to make sure they can get from where they are to safety and do that as safely as possible, which means you're gonna have to have at least a temporary localized stop in the fighting to allow them to move," he told reporters.

Kirby said the administration is working "hour by hour" and emphasized nothing is set in stone until it's "all done."

On the timeline of a potential hostage deal, a U.S. official said the negotiation process had reached the stage now where an agreement could be reached "at any point" -- but warned that it could still implode as well.

Beyond the assessment that Hamas is an unreliable player and talks have collapsed multiple times in recent weeks, the official said there were several other complicating factors that could impede the eventual release of any hostages that still needed to be worked through with all parties involved.

ABC News' Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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