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Hamas chief insists on Gaza ceasefire

Hamas chief insists on Gaza ceasefire

GAZA STRIP: Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Saturday reiterated the group’s demand of a complete ceasefire in Gaza, a day after US President Joe Biden called for a “temporary truce” to secure the release of hostages.

High-level negotiations to pause the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza were held this week in Cairo but their outcome is still unclear.

In a statement issued on Saturday, Qatar-based Haniyeh reiterated the group’s several demands, including an end to fighting in Gaza.

“The resistance will not agree to anything less than ceasefire, withdrawing of the occupying army from the Strip, lifting the oppressive blockade, and providing safe shelter for the displaced people,” he said.

Haniyeh insisted that those displaced from the north be returned to their areas in the territory. He also called for the release of Hamas prisoners sentenced to long jail terms in Israel.

On Friday Biden called for a temporary truce in Gaza to get hostages out of the Palestinian territory under a potential deal swapping them for prisoners held in Israel.

“I feel very strongly about it – that there has to be a temporary ceasefire to get the prisoners out, to get the hostages out,” Biden said from the White House.

He added that he had held “extensive” conversations with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on this and negotiations were “underway”.

Netanyahu had previously rejected what he labelled Hamas’s “bizarre demands”.

Earlier this week CIA director William Burns joined talks in Cairo with David Barnea, head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence service. These talks were mediated by Egypt and Qatar.

Israeli families of hostages held in Gaza have stepped up pressure on Netanyahu to arrive at a deal for securing the release of captives.

During the October 7 attack, some 250 hostages were taken to the Gaza Strip, of which roughly 130 are still being held there, according to Israeli officials.

Thirty of them are believed to be dead, while more than 100 had been freed during a one-week truce that ended on December 1.

Three hostages were ‘mistakenly’ killed by Israeli soldiers in December, while some have been rescued in military operations.

The October 7 attack itself resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

In Israel’s relentless military aggression in Gaza, at least 28,858 people have been killed, most of them women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.

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