Israel signals readiness for another hostage exchange

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Israeli leaders have signaled their willingness to negotiate another hostage exchange, with AFP reporting that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh will visit Egypt on Wednesday to hold talks.

Hamas still holds 129 hostages. One hundred and ten have been released, most in an earlier deal that Hamas then violated on Nov. 28.

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On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the families of abductees, “We are committed, and I am personally committed, to the release of all of the hostages. Rescuing them is the highest mission. Just now I twice sent the director of the Mossad to Europe to advance a process for the release of our hostages. I will spare no effort on the matter and the demand is to bring them all.”

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Also on Tuesday, while briefing ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps from 80 countries, President Isaac Herzog said, “Israel is ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.”

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Speaking of Israel’s efforts to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, Herzog noted, “First and foremost, we must remember that there are dozens of humanitarian cases within the group of hostages — such as babies, the elderly, sick, wounded and, of course, many women.”

According to CNN political and foreign policy analyst Barak Ravid, at a meeting  Monday in Warsaw between Mossad Director David Barnea, Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani and CIA Director William Burns, Israel proposed a weeklong pause in fighting in exchange for 40 hostages.

A Qatari newspaper, quoting an Egyptian source, reported Tuesday that Hamas’s leadership won’t accept any Israeli hostage deal proposals that don’t include a ceasefire as a “good faith gesture.”

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