Hamas political leader Haniyeh

While Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas have been negotiating the release of hostages, Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh said on March 21 (local time) that "we are approaching an agreement on a ceasefire."

Reuters· "We are approaching a ceasefire agreement," Haneye said in a statement to the messaging app Telegram and the media, according to AFP news agency.

Reuters said the statement did not provide details such as the terms of the agreement.

Later, a Hamas official told Arabic-language broadcaster Al Jazeera that "negotiations are underway on a ceasefire date, the delivery of aid into the Gaza Strip and the exchange of hostages and prisoners," according to Reuters.

"The agreement will include the release of Israeli women and children in exchange for Palestinian women and children in '(Israeli) occupying camps,'" the official said.

Details of the agreement will be announced by Qatar, which has been mediating the negotiations, the official added.

Hamas has abducted more than 7 hostages and held them in Gaza in a surprise attack on Israel on July 240.

Israel and the United States have been negotiating with Hamas with Qatar's mediation to get them released.

In recent days, there have been reports that Israel and Hamas are close to reaching an agreement on the release of hostages in exchange for a pause in hostilities.

The day before, US President Joe Biden, when asked if an agreement between Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages was imminent, replied: "I believe so."

White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby was also asked at a briefing on the same day, saying, "I believe we're getting closer and closer," adding, "We're closer than ever before. That's a good thing."

The terms of the hostage release that are being negotiated are said to be a multi-day cessation of hostilities.

The Washington Post reported on March 18 that Israel, the United States and Hamas were close to reaching an agreement to release more than 5 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for a five-day cessation of hostilities.

Reuters reported last week, citing sources, that Qatar's negotiators were discussing the release of 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day cessation of hostilities.

Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, said on ABC on March 3 that the negotiations could be concluded in the coming days, and that he was "hopeful that a significant number of hostages could be released in the coming days."

(Photo = AP, Yonhap News)