Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Homemiddle eastSource close to Hamas says talks under way for release of 12...

Source close to Hamas says talks under way for release of 12 hostages

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories – Negotiations are under way for the release of a dozen hostages held by Hamas, including six Americans, in return for a three-day ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a source close to Hamas said on Wednesday.

“Talks revolve around the release of 12 hostages, half of them Americans, in exchange for a three-day humanitarian pause, to enable Hamas to release the hostages and to enable Egypt an extended (period of time) to deliver humanitarian aid,” the source said.

“There’s disagreement around the time period and around the north (of the Gaza Strip), which is witnessing extensive combat operations,” the source said.

“Qatar is awaiting an Israeli response,” they added.

Earlier on Wednesday, a separate source briefed on the talks said Qatar was mediating negotiations in coordination with the US to free “10-15 hostages in exchange for a one- to two-day ceasefire”.

Fighting has raged in Gaza for over a month following Hamas’ shock Oct 7 attack that killed more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and took more than 240 hostages, according to Israeli authorities.

In Gaza, 10,569 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military campaign to destroy Hamas, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory has said.

Qatar has been engaged in intense diplomacy to secure the release of those held by Hamas, negotiating the handover of four hostages – two Israelis and two Americans – in recent weeks.

Families welcome every release

Following reports on the latest negotiations, the Hostages and Missing Persons Families Forum said it welcomed “the return of each and every hostage”.

However, “any move towards a ceasefire should include the release of all hostages from Gaza”, the group said in a statement.

Qatar, which hosts the largest US military base in the Middle East, also hosts the political office of Hamas and is the main residence of its self-exiled leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The wealthy Gulf emirate has been a fierce supporter of the Palestinian cause and has open channels of communication with Hamas, the Islamist rulers of Gaza.

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Amid repeated calls for a ceasefire, Qatar has lamented the escalating violence visited on Gaza and its 2.4 million inhabitants, saying Israeli bombing undermines mediation efforts and de-escalation.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani said the Gulf state was “determined to continue its mediation”, despite difficulties “caused by the actions of the Israeli occupation”.

The G-7 grouping of economically advanced nations called on Wednesday for “humanitarian pauses and corridors” in the conflict but refrained from calling for a ceasefire during talks in Japan. AFP

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