Israel Palestine Conflict

Israeli leaders to discuss possible Gaza ceasefire proposal

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Israel’s war cabinet will meet later on Saturday after a delegation returned from talks in Paris on a hostage release and ceasefire deal in the war against Hamas.

National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said members would “meet this evening by telephone” to hear an update on discussions about the conflict in the Gaza Strip, which is now in its fifth month.

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The Paris talks saw the head of Israel’s overseas intelligence service Mossad and his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security service meeting with mediators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

“There is probably room to move towards an agreement,” Hanegbi told N12 News television in an interview, without elaborating.

Israel wants the release of all hostages seized in the October 7 attacks, starting with all women, but Hanegbi added: “Such agreement does not mean the end of the war.”

A one-week pause in fighting in November saw more than 100 hostages released, the Israelis among them in exchange for some 240 Palestinians jailed in Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has characterized Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire in Gaza as “bizarre” and vowed to press on with the military campaign until “total victory” over the group.

The head of Israel’s military, Herzi Halevi, visited the Gaza Strip on Saturday and said military action was the most effective way of getting back the hostages.

Combat was “leverage”, he told troops. “We need to continue and apply it strongly... to use it to release the hostages,” he added.

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Hamas attacked rural communities and military posts bordering the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 1,160 people dead, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Some 250 hostages were taken, of whom 130 are still in Gaza, although about 30 are thought to be dead, Israel says.

In response, Israel has unleashed a relentless campaign from air, land and sea against Hamas fighters, which the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says has killed at least 29,606 people.

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