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Hamas chief says a ‘truce agreement’ and hostage exchange with Israel is close

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The chief of Hamas said the group is near a potential truce with Israel that would bring a pause to the country’s relentless airstrikes on Gaza in exchange for the release of Israelis held hostage in the Palestinian territory.

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Officials for the Palestinian terror group are “close to reaching a truce agreement” with the Israeli government as the parties negotiate through Qatari mediators, an aide for Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters in a statement.

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The aide divulged little details about the reported agreement but said Hamas has delivered its response to the Qatari mediators.

The two sides of the deadly conflict are reportedly negotiating over the duration of the truce, the logistics of delivering sorely-needed aid to Gaza and the exchange of Israeli hostages abducted and held by Hamas for Palestinian prisoners in Israel, a Hamas official told Al Jazeera TV.

Hamas’ top leader, Ismail Haniyeh, said the terror group is “close to reaching a truce agreement” with the Israeli government.

Women and children would be freed from both sides as part of the hostage-prisoner swap, the official Issat el Reshiq told the outlet.

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It’s unclear how many of the 240 Israelis held in Gaza since Hamas fighters kidnapped them on Oct. 7 will be returned home through the deal-brokering.

There has been constant chatter over a potential hostage release deal for days, but no solid agreement has been reached yet. Qatar, as the third-party mediator, is expected to announce the details of any plan that is agreed upon.

Israeli soldiers operate amid the ongoing ground operation of the Israeli army against Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, at a location given as Gaza Strip, in this screengrab taken from a handout video released on Nov. 21, 2023.

Qatar’s prime minister, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said the remaining bartering points were “very minor” on Sunday.

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Last week, Qatari mediators were hoping for Israel and Hamas to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire that would allow emergency aid to get into Gaza — where civilians have reported having no electricity, clean water or food.

The United Nations has warned that the possibility of mass starvation is growing as deliveries of food and other necessities are becoming more difficult or even impossible amid a communications black-out in the territory.

Smoke rises after Israeli air strikes in Gaza, as seen from southern Israel, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, Nov. 21, 2023.

The conflict has killed thousands of people — many of whom were innocent civilians. The Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 killed 1,200 Israelis. The Jewish nation’s retaliatory airstrikes and ground mission in Gaza has killed at least 13,300 Palestinians — including at least 5,600 children and 3,550 women, according to Hamas-run health ministry.

US officials on Monday said they believe a deal is close, but added that they had thought the same before only to be proven wrong.

“Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute,” White House deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program Sunday. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

With Post wires

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