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Saturday, July 20, 2024

Hamas chief due in Egypt for Gaza ceasefire talks

Hamas sources said Wednesday at least 11 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip.

The head of Hamas was due in Egypt on Wednesday for talks on a ceasefire in Gaza, after Israel said it was willing to agree to another pause in exchange for more hostages.

International pressure is mounting for a new truce that could ramp up aid to the besieged Palestinian territory, with the United Nations due to vote on calling for a ceasefire.

Hamas sources said Wednesday at least 11 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip.

Read more: Most young Americans want Israel given to Hamas – poll

Qatar-based Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was expected to lead a “high-level” delegation to Egypt for talks with the country’s spy chief and others on “stopping the aggression and the war to prepare an agreement for the release of prisoners”, a source close to the group told AFP.

Israel’s leaders are facing growing calls to secure the release of 129 hostages they say are being held in Gaza and, on Tuesday, signalled a willingness to return to the negotiating table with Hamas.

Israeli President Issac Herzog said his country was “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid to enable the release of hostages”.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had recently sent his spy chief on two trips to Europe to “free our hostages”.

Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, released video footage on Tuesday it claimed showed two hostages alive in its custody in Gaza, ramping up pressure on Israel.

US news site Axios reported Monday that David Barnea, head of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad, met with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and CIA director Bill Burns in Europe to discuss a potential new deal to free hostages.

Axios also reported Tuesday that Israel had offered to pause the fighting in Gaza for at least one week in exchange for more than three dozen hostages held by Hamas.

Read more: Hamas leader names conditions for peace talks

The war began when Hamas militants burst out of Gaza on October 7, killing around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250, according to the latest Israeli figures.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel began a campaign of bombardment, alongside a ground invasion, that Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says has killed 19,667 people, mostly women and children.

Qatar, backed by Egypt and the United States, helped broker a week-long truce and hostage-prisoner swap in November in which 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.