Discussions are underway for Hamas to release a small number of hostages, including some Americans, in return for a short pause in Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, according to officials briefed on the discussions.
Under the terms being negotiated, Hamas would release up to 15 hostages and Israel would pause attacks on Gaza for three days, which would allow time for humanitarian aid to be shipped into the enclave and hostages to be transported out, according to one person briefed on the discussions.
Other officials confirmed the outlines of a deal but declined to discuss the specific numbers of hostages being discussed. Hamas, the group that controls the Gaza Strip and staged the surprise attack on Israel on Oct. 7, and other Palestinian groups are believed to be holding more than 240 hostages.
William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, has been helping facilitate the talks, according to U.S. officials. Mr. Burns is currently visiting countries in the Persian Gulf and is expected to continue his work on the hostage issue, according to the people briefed on the hostage negotiations.
John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, declined to discuss the negotiations but said there had been a couple of humanitarian pauses that allowed people, including hostages, to leave Gaza.
“This is not a new idea, but it is something that we believe should continue to be pursued,” Mr. Kirby said.
The new proposal would free Israeli female civilians and children, and people from other countries, including Americans, taken by Hamas on Oct. 7 when the group attacked Israel. It is not clear how many Americans might be released.
Qatar is playing a role in the mediation, as it did in two earlier hostage releases.
In recent days, American officials, including Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, who was in the Middle East last week, have intensified their push for a deal that would involve trading hostages for a pause in the fighting.
On Wednesday, Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, said that about 10 Americans remained unaccounted for in the Hamas massacre last month.
“We have been working around the clock to determine the whereabouts of these hostages,” he said.
But Mr. Patel declined to discuss either Qatar-mediated talks or any U.S. involvement in the negotiations.
U.S. officials and others briefed on the discussions said Hamas had previously made an offer to release a group of hostages. Those conversations took place right before the Israeli military entered Gaza. But Israeli officials doubted Hamas sincerity and went ahead with their ground operation.
Still, U.S. officials said discussions continued even after Israeli forces surrounded Gaza City.
Qatar has been deeply involved in the hostage negotiations. The political leaders of Hamas are based in Doha. And the Qatari government has regular discussions with Israel, Hamas and the United States.
The Biden administration has not pressed Qatar to close down the Hamas office because Mr. Blinken and other American officials believe it is useful for hostage negotiations, a U.S. official said.
At a news conference with Mr. Blinken on Oct. 13, the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani, said the office was “a way of communicating and bringing peace and calm into the region.”
Lisa Friedman in Washington contributed reporting.