WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. officials have considered negotiating a unilateral deal with Palestinian Hamas militants to release five American hostages held in Gaza if ceasefire talks involving Israel fail, NBC News reported Monday.

It was not clear what the United States might offer Hamas in exchange, according to the report, which cited two current and two former U.S. officials

The United States says Hamas is holding five Americans who were taken hostage in the group's deadly Oct. 7 incursion inside Israel, which prompted Israel to retaliate. Officials are hoping to recover the bodies of three other Americans who were killed that day, NBC reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, asked about the report as he left Cairo, said, "The best way, the most effective way to get everyone home, including the American hostages, is through this proposal, is through the ceasefire deal that's on the table right now."

Any unilateral talks would be conducted through Qatari negotiators and would not involve Israel, the unidentified officials, who have all been briefed on the negotiations, told NBC.

The officials said Hamas would have an incentive to reach such a deal with Washington because it would strain U.S.-Israel relations further and add pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been criticized at home for not doing more to get the hostages out.

The Hamas attack killed 1,200 people and took some 250 others hostage, according to Israeli tallies. In response, Israel launched an assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said in its Sunday update, and reduced the enclave to a wasteland.

Blinken is on his eighth visit to the region since the Oct. 7 attack, which triggered the bloodiest episode in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by Rod Nickel)