Fight broke out on Sunday between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in parts of north Gaza and Israeli air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians in the enclave’s centre, witnesses said, as a report of a tentative hostage release deal was denied.…CONTINUE READING
Sunday Telegraph had earlier reported that Israel and Hamas reached a tentative U.S.-brokered agreement to free dozens of women and children held hostage in Gaza in exchange for a five-day cease-fire in their war, citing people familiar with the matter.
A source privy to the development said all parties would freeze combat operations for at least five days while 50 or more hostages were released in groups every 24 hours.
Hamas took about 240 hostages during its deadly cross-border rampage into Israeli communities on Oct. 7.
According to the reports, the ceasefire is intended to allow a significant amount of humanitarian aid in, the newspaper reported, adding that the outline of the deal was put together during weeks of talks in Qatar.
But both Israel’s prime minister and U.S. officials said no agreement had been hammered out yet, with a White House spokesperson saying efforts were continuing to clinch a deal.
The report came as Israel appeared to be preparing to expand its offensive against Hamas militants to densely populated Gaza’s southern half after air strikes killed dozens of Palestinians, including civilians reportedly sheltering at two schools.
Israeli forces invaded late last month after a devastating aerial blitz in response to Hamas’s attack, and say they have wrested control of large areas of the north and northwest around Gaza City.
But guerrilla-style Hamas resistance remains fierce in pockets of the heavily urbanised north including parts of Gaza City and the sprawling Jabalia and Beach refugee camps, according to Hamas and local witnesses.
Witnesses reported heavy fighting overnight between Hamas gunmen and Israeli ground forces trying to advance into Jabalia, the largest of the enclave’s camps with nearly 100,000 people, most of whom rejected Israeli appeals to evacuate to the south.
Jabalia has come under repeated Israeli bombardment that has killed scores of civilians, Palestinian medics say, with Israel saying the strikes have killed many militants harbouring there.
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