Israel to send Mossad-led delegation for negotiating hostage deal with Hamas

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Thursday he has agreed to send a delegation for talks on securing the release of hostages seized in the October 7 attacks.

In a statement after telephone talks with US President Joe Biden, Netanyahu’s office said: “The prime minister updated President Biden about his decision to send a delegation that would continue negotiations for freeing the hostages.”

There was no indication where the delegation would go or when it would leave.

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Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet for late Thursday to discuss proposals sent by Hamas through Qatari mediators to end the Gaza conflict, media reports said.

Hamas has demanded an end to fighting and an Israeli withdrawal as a prelude to any hostage deal.

Israel countered that there can be no end to the war without the release of hostages in the Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu has also repeatedly vowed that the Gaza campaign will not end until Hamas’s military and government capabilities have been destroyed.

Hamas said late Wednesday that it had sent new “ideas” for a potential deal and Netanyahu’s office said the government was “evaluating” them.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been mediating between the two sides and sources close to their efforts said there had been a renewed push to bridge the “gaps” between the foes in recent weeks.

Biden announced a pathway to a truce deal in May which he said had been proposed by Israel and which included a six-week truce to allow for talks and eventually a program to rebuild devastated Gaza.

“There are important developments in the latest proposals with positive options for both sides,” said a diplomat briefed on the latest proposals. “This time the Americans are very serious about this.”

The war started with the October 7 attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

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Hamas militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the army says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 38,011 people, also mostly civilians, according to figures from the territory’s health ministry.

‘Real chance’

There is a “real chance” of achieving a deal with Hamas on the release of hostages, a source in the Israeli negotiating team said on Thursday.

“The proposal put forward by Hamas includes a very significant breakthrough,” said the source, after the Palestinian militant group presented a revised proposal for a deal, via mediators, to Israel’s government.

“It can serve to advance negotiations. There’s a deal with a real chance of implementation. Though The clauses are not easy, they shouldn’t scupper the deal.”

A different Israeli official confirmed an earlier report that the Israeli delegation to the talks will be led by the boss of the Mossad intelligence agency.

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