Israel signals readiness for new temporary truce in Gaza Strip

Israeli President Isaac Herzog has stated Tel Aviv is willing to agree to a new temporary truce with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to secure the release of more captives held by the Palestinian group.

“Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages,” Herzog told a gathering of ambassadors on Tuesday.

The comments come amid growing international pressure on Israel to pause its assault on Gaza and to allow more humanitarian aid into the besieged territory.

A previous Israel-Hamas agreement mediated by Qatar and Egypt led to a week-long truce at the end of November during which Hamas released 86 women and children it was holding in exchange for 240 Palestinian women and teenagers held in Israeli jails. Hamas also released 24 foreign nationals during the pause in fighting.

Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, who also serves as the Gulf state’s foreign minister, Mossad Director David Barnea and CIA Director Bill Burns held talks in Poland on Monday to discuss a potential new deal to secure the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons and a humanitarian pause in the fighting.

“The talks were positive with negotiators exploring and discussing different proposals in an attempt to progress on negotiations”, a source briefed on the diplomatic efforts told the Reuters news agency, adding, “An agreement is not expected imminently, however.”

Hamas announced in a statement on Tuesday that it rejects any forms of negotiations about prisoner exchanges “under the continuing Israeli genocidal war.”

The Palestinian group added it is open to any initiative that contributes to “ending the aggression” and opening border crossings “to bring in aid and provide relief to the Palestinian people”.

The war has flattened large parts of northern Gaza and driven most of the population to the southern part of the besieged territory, where many are in crowded shelters and tent camps. Some 1.9 million Palestinians – about 90 percent of Gaza’s population – have fled their homes.

At least 19,667 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the Israeli assault on Gaza since, according to Palestinian health authorities.

Israel launched the assault on Gaza after Hamas fighters from the territory stormed into southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 240 others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

Israel is facing growing international pressure to scale back its offensive as the civilian death toll in Gaza continues to soar.

France, the United Kingdom and Germany on Sunday added their voices to calls for a ceasefire, while US President Joe Biden last week called the bombing “indiscriminate”.

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