Source: Hamas says ready for exchanging women and children hostages with Israel

Palestinian movement Hamas has announced its readiness for a potential deal with Israel on the release of women and children still held as hostages in the Gaza Strip, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing Egyptian officials.

Such an initiative marked a significant shift in the position of Hamas that used to insist during recent weeks on a comprehensive ceasefire agreement as a condition for the hostage release talks, the report said.

However, Israeli officials are still very skeptical about potential progress in the negotiations with Hamas, although Tel Aviv remains ready to continue the talks, the newspaper reported, citing Egyptian and Qatari officials.

On October 7, the Gaza Strip-controlling Hamas movement launched a large-scale rocket attack against Israel and breached the border, attacking both civilian neighborhoods and military bases. As a result, over 1,200 people in Israel were killed and some 250 others abducted.

Israel launched retaliatory strikes, ordered a complete blockade of Gaza, and started a ground incursion into the Palestinian enclave with the declared goal of eliminating Hamas fighters and rescuing the hostages. Nearly 25,500 people have been killed so far in the Gaza Strip as a result of Israeli strikes, local authorities said.

On November 24, Qatar mediated a deal between Israel and Hamas on a temporary truce and the exchange of some of the prisoners and hostages, as well as the delivery of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. The ceasefire was extended several times and expired on December 1. More than 100 hostages are still believed to be held by Hamas in Gaza.

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