GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories (AFP) – Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Tuesday a truce agreement with apartheid state Israel was in sight.
“We are close to reaching a deal on a truce,” Haniyeh said, according to a statement sent by his office to AFP.
For weeks, as the war in Gaza has raged, negotiators have tried to pin down a deal to free some of the estimated 240 hostages held by Hamas.
The precise whereabouts of the rest are not publicly known, although they are believed to be held in Gaza, where Israel launched a relentless bombing campaign and ground offensive in retaliation for the deadliest attack in its history.
According to the Hamas government in Gaza, the war has killed more than 13,300 people, thousands of them children.
Speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad — a separate Palestinian militant group that also took part in the October 7 attacks — confirmed that their movements had agreed to the terms of a truce deal.
The tentative deal includes a five-day truce, comprised of a ceasefire on the ground and limits to Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.
In return, between 50 and 100 people held by the Hamas would be released.
They would include Israeli civilians and people of other nationalities, but no military personnel.
Under the proposed deal, some 300 Palestinians, among them women and children, would also be released from Israeli jails.
On Monday, US President Joe Biden had said he believed a deal to free the hostages was close, as hopes grew for talks brokered by Qatar, where Hamas has a political office and which has behind-the-scenes diplomatic links with Israel.
Separately, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that its president had travelled to Qatar to meet Hamas’s Haniyeh “to advance humanitarian issues related to the armed conflict in Israel and Gaza”.
As well as spelling the release of hostages, the agreement could bring respite for Gazans who have lived for more than six weeks under Israel bombardment and an expanding ground offensive.
Large parts of Gaza have been destroyed by air strikes that have numbered in the thousands, and the territory is under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed to enter.
According to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources, the deal would also allow for up to 300 trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza.
Israel has been wary of allowing fuel into the strip for fear it could be used by Hamas in rockets or for other paramilitary means.
Israel has vowed to press ahead with its offensive, pledging to crush Hamas and ensure the hostages are released.