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Hamas accepts proposal on talks over Israeli hostages – World

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GAZA/JERUSALEM — Israel carried out deadly airstrikes in the Gaza Strip as the conflict entered its 10th month on Sunday, with Hamas reportedly having accepted a US proposal to begin talks on releasing Israeli hostages.

A senior Hamas source told Reuters on Saturday that Hamas has accepted a US proposal to begin talks on releasing Israeli hostages, including soldiers and civilians.

The militant group has dropped a demand that Israel first commit to a permanent cease-fire before signing the agreement, and would allow negotiations to achieve that throughout the six-week first phase, the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

Hamas is waiting for a response from Israel on the cease-fire proposal, two officials from the militant group said on Sunday.

“We have left our response with the mediators and are waiting to hear the occupation’s response,” one of the two Hamas officials told Reuters, asking not to be named.

The three-phase plan for the Palestinian enclave was put forward at the end of May by US President Joe Biden and is being mediated by Qatar and Egypt.

Another Palestinian official, with knowledge of the cease-fire deliberations, said Israel was in talks with the Qataris.

“They have discussed with them Hamas’ response and they promised to give them Israel’s response within days,” the official, who asked not to be named, told Reuters on Sunday.

Israel has said it will send a delegation in the coming days to continue truce talks with Qatari mediators that began recently in Doha.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said “gaps” remained with Hamas on how to secure a cease-fire and hostage release deal.

“It was agreed that next week Israeli negotiators will travel to Doha to continue the talks. There are still gaps between the parties,” the spokesman said in a statement on Friday.

US Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns will travel to Qatar soon for negotiations, a source familiar with the matter said.

Fighting continues

Meanwhile, the fighting in Gaza continued unabated, with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society saying on Sunday that the bodies of six people, including two children, who were killed in Israeli strikes, had arrived at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the central city of Deir al-Balah.

Paramedics also said on Sunday that six people had been killed in an Israeli strike on a house in the northern area of Gaza City.

The day before, the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said 16 people had been killed in a strike on a school run by the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees that was sheltering displaced people in Nuseirat, in central Gaza.

The Israeli military said its aircraft had targeted “terrorists” operating around the Al-Jawni school.

The military earlier said it had conducted operations across much of the Gaza Strip, including Shujaiya in the north and Deir al-Balah and Rafah in the south.

Shujaiya is among the areas the military had previously declared to be cleared of Hamas, but where fighting has since resumed.

There has been no truce since a one-week pause in November when 80 Israeli hostages were freed in return for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Pressure has mounted domestically for another hostage release deal, with regular protests and rallies in Israel.

“It’s important that we reach a deal so that all the mothers can embrace their children and husbands, just as I hug my mother every morning now,” rescued hostage Almog Meir Jan said in a recorded message to a rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday.

Israeli protesters blocked roads in the city for a second day on Sunday, demanding the government secure a hostage deal with Hamas as the Gaza conflict entered the 10th month.

The conflict started on Oct 7 when Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking about 250 hostages, according to official Israeli figures.

At least 38,153 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military onslaught, according to Gaza health officials, and the coastal enclave has largely been reduced to rubble.

Also, Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement have exchanged cross-border fire almost daily since the Gaza conflict began.

Agencies via Xinhua

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