Israel agrees to week-long ceasefire for hostage release: Sources

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Amid increasing pressure from hostage families, Israel has agreed to a week-long ceasefire to secure the release of captives held by the Hamas militant groups in Gaza, according to highly-placed sources. The fresh development comes two days after Mossad chief David Barnea met CIA Director William Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Warsaw on Monday.

The sources told IANS that Israel has communicated to Qatar –the key mediatory — that it was agreeable to a one-week ceasefire and demanded the release of 40 hostages. These hostages include women, children and elderly persons above 60 years of age. Meanwhile, Israel has also agreed to release Palestinian prisoners, including those who have committed more grievous crimes than the ones who were freed during the previous humanitarian pause between November 24 and December 1.

The sources also told IANS that Hamas had demanded a total back-out from the war which Israel did not agree to. According to available information, the Israel side said that it would agree to a permanent cessation of war only after Hamas hands over all those responsible for the October 7 carnage. But as diplomatic efforts continue, the humanitarian crisis in the besieged enclave worsens with each day.

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Nearly 20,000 people have been killed by Israeli military action in Gaza since October 7, and more than 52,000 wounded, according to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health. Meanwhile, much of northern Gaza has been decimated by airstrikes and, according to the UN, almost 1.9 million people — more than 80 per cent of the enclave’s population — have been displaced.