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Hamas chief says they are close to truce agreement with Israel

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The chief of Hamas told Reuters today that the militant group was near a truce agreement with Israel, even as the deadly assault on Gaza continued and rockets were being fired into Israel.

Hamas officials are “close to reaching a truce agreement” with Israel and the group has delivered its response to Qatari mediators, Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement sent to Reuters by his aide.

There were no more details about the terms of the potential agreement.

US President Joe Biden said yesterday he believed an accord was near. “We’re closer now than we’ve been before, “White House spokesman John Kirby said of an agreement aimed at securing the release of some hostages held in Gaza and a pause in the fighting that would allow much-needed aid into the besieged enclave.

Hamas took about 240 hostages during its October 7 rampage into Israel that killed 1200 people.

Mirjana Spoljaric, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), met Haniyeh in Qatar yesterday to “advance humanitarian issues” related to the conflict, the Geneva-based ICRC said in a statement. She also met separately with Qatari authorities.

The ICRC said it was not part of negotiations aimed at releasing the hostages, but as a neutral intermediary it was ready “to facilitate any future release that the parties agree to.”

Talk of an imminent hostage deal has swirled for days. Reuters reported last week that Qatari mediators were seeking a deal for Hamas and Israel to exchange 50 hostages in return for a three-day ceasefire that would boost emergency aid shipments to Gaza civilians, citing an official briefed on the talks.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that he hoped for an agreement “in the coming days” while Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said that the remaining sticking points were “very minor.”

A deal has appeared close before.

“Sensitive negotiations like this can fall apart at the last minute,” White House Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer told NBC’s “Meet the Press” programme on Sunday. “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

Hamas’ raid on October 7, the deadliest day in Israel’s 75-year-old history, prompted Israel to invade the Palestinian territory to target Hamas.

Since then, Gaza’s Hamas-run government said at least 13 300 Palestinians have been killed, including at least 5 600 children and 3 550 women, by unrelenting Israeli bombardment.

Hamas said on its Telegram account on Monday that it had launched a barrage of missiles towards Tel Aviv. Witnesses also reported rockets being fired at central Israel.

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