Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The Israeli government voted Tuesday night to approve a hostage deal with Hamas, that allows for the release of 50 women and children being held by militants in Gaza in exchange for a four-day cease-fire, according to a government source who told CNN, NBC and CBS that the deal was approved by a significant majority of the cabinet.
The agreement now calls for a 24-hour period, during which families of Hamas' victims can appeal to the Supreme Court. Once that period concludes, the deal will be final.
Before Tuesday night's vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reservists that he was optimistic.
"We are making progress. I don't think it's worth saying too much, not at even this moment, but I hope there will be good news soon," Netanyahu promised.
According to Israeli Defense Forces, a total of 236 Israelis including 40 children are still in captivity in Gaza. More than 12,500 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis have been killed, according to IDF and the Palestinian health authority, in both the Hamas attack against Israel on Oct. 7, and in the Israeli operation that followed.
Before Tuesday's cabinet meetings, Netanyahu released a video statement, stating he and the security forces supported the Hamas deal.
"Before us tonight is a difficult decision, but it is the right decision: All the security forces support it, fully," Netanyahu said. "They understood that the war effort would not only not hurt, but the opposite: this would allow the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the continuation of the fighting."
אנחנו במלחמה - ונמשיך במלחמה עד שנשיג את כל היעדים שלנו:
Netanyahu added that any deal would not end Israel's war on Hamas.
"I would like to make it clear here again: the war continues, the war will continue until we achieve all of our goals: to eliminate Hamas, to return all our hostages, to ensure that the day after Hamas, Gaza will no longer be a threat to Israel, there will be no element in it that supports terrorism, that educates its children to terror, and who threaten the State of Israel," Netanyahu said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke for a second time Tuesday with his Israeli counterpart Defense Minister Yoav Gallant who stressed that despite any short-term ceasefire, security forces must continue to pressure Hamas.
"I understand how important this thing is," Gallant said. "Along with that, without the pressure and the continuity, there will be no chance to bring the next teams that we want to bring."
Former CIA Director John Brennan agreed, and warned that Israel must be prepared for "radical extremist elements" in Gaza to undermine any cease-fire deal.
The meetings of Israel's war and security cabinets began Tuesday as Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh confirmed that the militant group was nearing a truce with Israel to temporarily halt the fighting in Gaza.
According to a report by the Times of Israel, a draft proposal for a hostage exchange and humanitarian pause in fighting was delivered to Israel by Qatar.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh posted comments on social media after Hamas had delivered a response to Qatari mediators who have been brokering negotiations involving the United States, Israel and Hamas for weeks, but gave no specifics.
"The movement delivered its response to the brothers in Qatar and the mediators and we are close to reaching a truce agreement," Haniyeh said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, another Hamas official, Ezzat el-Reshiq, said the negotiations were focusing on the duration of the truce, preparations to get aid into Gaza and swapping women and children being held by Hamas for women and child Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
The agreement, which would also provide for transferring injured and sick in Gaza to third countries for medical care, would be announced by Doha, said el-Reshiq, who complained negotiations had stretched out for so long because Israel had been dragging its feet.
El-Reshiq also sought to quash doubts over whether Hamas' political and military leadership in Gaza would be on the same page, saying, "We are always united whether it is on the battlefield or in making political decisions."
Mousa Abu Marzouk, a founding member of Hamas, told CBS News on Monday that negotiators were "close" to an agreement under which Hamas would release 50 hostages to secure a multi-day cease-fire.
Israel would also release dozens of Palestinian prisoners, cease all flight operations over the southern portion of Gaza during the cease-fire and pause flights in northern Gaza to allow hostage transfers and delivery of humanitarian aid.
Qatar's Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani also said the two sides were "close to reaching an agreement," as points of contention that remained were "very minor."
White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer told CBS News that "many areas of difference that previously existed" in the negotiations "have been narrowed."
Earlier, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said negotiators were "getting close to the end" on the release of hostages but declined to offer details.
"I know that everybody's interested in the numbers and who they're going to be. We're working that through literally in real time with both sides. So, I think it's better if I just don't speculate about what that pool is going to look like," Kirby told reporters Monday.
He said the administration was working especially hard to get American citizens released immediately but did not say whether any would be among those included in the truce agreement.
"Obviously, we are laser-focused on the American citizens that we know are being held hostage and we want them out, all of them. Everybody should be out now," Kirby said.
Asked whether he thought they were still alive, he said he had no reason to think otherwise.