Israeli official: The US presented a plan regarding the number of prisoners and detainees to be released

By Dan Williams and Nidal Al-Mughrabi

JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) – An Israeli official familiar with talks held by Qatar said on Saturday it had “closer” views on the number of Palestinian prisoners Israel would have to release for each hostage it freed. The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) during a possible new ceasefire in Gaza.

An Israeli delegation headed by Mossad intelligence chief David Barnia is visiting Doha to hold secret talks with Hamas, while CIA director William Burns is assisting mediators, including Qatari and Egyptian officials.

An Israeli official, who did not want to be named, said, “During the negotiations, large gaps appeared in the proportion of prisoners to be released for each hostage.”

He added, “The US put a plan on the table to bring (views) closer, and Israel responded positively to it (but) Hamas has yet to respond.”

The official did not provide details on the US proposal.

The US Embassy in Israel has not yet commented.

If a deal is reached, the parties have previously said that Israel would halt its assault on Gaza for six weeks and return 40 of the 130 hostages still held by Hamas after a cross-border attack on October 7 that sparked the war.

Under a previous ceasefire in late November, Israel released three Palestinian prisoners, most of them young and accused of relatively minor crimes, for every hostage released by Hamas.

Both sides expect Hamas to now seek the release of a large number of senior Palestinian faction leaders.

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Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that Israel is responsible for the failure to reach a deal, as it has so far refused to commit to ending the military offensive, withdrawing forces from the Gaza Strip and allowing the displaced to return. Houses in the northern Gaza Strip.

Abu Zuhri added, “What the US and the occupation want is to return prisoners without any commitment to stop the occupation, and thus war, fighting and destruction again, and we do not accept this.”

Hamas's military wing said on Saturday that the Israeli hostage had died of “lack of medicine and food”.

Israeli officials generally refuse to respond to such announcements, accusing Hamas of waging psychological warfare. But Israel itself announced that 35 of the captured hostages had been killed.

Two Palestinian officials close to the mediation efforts said a cease-fire agreement in Gaza was not imminent. One of them told Reuters, without elaborating, that Israel was responsible for blocking the deal.

Hamas wants an Israeli commitment to a cease-fire and troop withdrawal from Gaza, but Israel rejects this and says it will continue its campaign to eventually oust Hamas.

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