Natalie Shoshana Raanan and Judith Tai Raanan
This handout picture courtesy of the United States embassy in Jerusalem taken on October 20, 2023 shows Natalie Shoshana Raanan (L) and Judith Tai Raanan speaking on the phone with US President Joe Biden, after being held hostage and later released by Hamas. Image Credit: AFP

Berlin: Qatar, a key power in the efforts to release hostages seized by Hamas from Israel, believes they can be released "very soon" thanks to ongoing discussions, a Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman told the German Welt am Sonntag newspaper Saturday.

"I can't promise this will happen today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. But we are on a path that will very soon lead to the release of the hostages, especially the civilians," Majed Al Ansari said.

Qatar is working on an agreement under which civilian hostages held by Hamas will be freed first, the newspaper cited Al Ansari as saying.

While the goal is to return all hostages as soon as possible, women, children and people who have nothing to do with the current Israel-Hamas conflict will have priority, he said.

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Doha's mediation played a key role in the release on Friday evening of two American hostages who had been held since the Palestinian militant group's attack against Israel on October 7.

The released hostages were met at the border by Israeli security forces, who took them to a military base where family members were waiting. Hamas said it released the captives after mediation by Qatar.

Judith Raanan, right, and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan
In this photo provided by the Government of Israel, Judith Raanan, right, and her 17-year-old daughter Natalie Shoshana Raanan are with Gal Hirsch (centre), Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's special coordinator for returning the hostages, as they return to Israel from captivity in the Gaza Strip, on Friday, October 20, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Hamas in its October 7 attack on Israel captured more than 200 people as well as killing more than 1,400. More than 20 of the hostages being held in Gaza are teenagers and young children, while as many as 20 of them are more than 60 years old, Israel's military said Friday.