Hamas to release 20 Israeli hostages instead of 33

Tel Aviv: Hamas has agreed to release 20 Israeli hostages in its custody instead of the 33 proposed by Israel.

A delegation of Hamas leaders led by Khalil al-Hayva has reached the Egyptian capital of Cairo for a fresh round of indirect mediatory talks regarding a ceasefire in the war with Israel as well as the release of Israeli hostages.

Other Hamas leaders in the three-member delegation include Zaher Jabarin and Ghazi Hamad.

According to sources in the Israel Defense Ministry, Hamas has informed the Qatar and Egyptian mediators that it can release 20 Israeli hostages, including women, the elderly, and the sick.

Israel had earlier proposed the release of 33 of its hostages held in Hamas custody in exchange for around 600 Palestinian prisoners languishing in Israeli jails.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, William Burns, has reached Cairo and will supervise the indirect mediatory talks.

The Israeli delegation is already in Cairo led by Mossad Chief David Barnea.

Hamas, according to sources, has also demanded a ceasefire for 40 days and later a permanent retreat of the Israel army from the Gaza Strip.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already informed the mediators that the Israeli army would invade the Rafah region of the Gaza Strip by next Friday if the mediatory talks are not moving forward.

Sources in the Israel Prime Minister’s office told IANS that Netanyahu had told the US that Israel had no option other than a military operation in Rafah to free its hostages as well as to defeat Hamas.

The elite Nahal Brigade of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has already been stationed at Rafah in Gaza and is waiting for a political clearance for a ground invasion.

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