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Israel would let 150,000 Gazans return north in potential truce, officials say

1 min

Israel has agreed in Gaza war ceasefire talks in Egypt to concessions about the return of Palestinians to the north of the enclave, but believes Islamist group Hamas does not want to strike a deal, Israeli officials said on Wednesday.

The Rimal district in Gaza in March 2024 © Mena Today 

Israel has agreed in Gaza war ceasefire talks in Egypt to concessions about the return of Palestinians to the north of the enclave, but believes Islamist group Hamas does not want to strike a deal, Israeli officials said on Wednesday.

Two officials with knowledge of the talks said that under a U.S. proposal for a truce, Israel would allow the return of 150,000 Palestinians to north Gaza with no security checks.

In return, they said, Hamas would be required to give a list of female, elderly and sick hostages it still holds alive.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office declined to comment. Hamas said on Tuesday that the latest proposal passed on by Eqyptian and Qatari mediators did not meet demands, but that it would study it further before responding.

Israel's assessment is that Hamas does not want to strike a deal yet, the two Israeli officials said.

In the seventh month of the war, Hamas wants an end to the Israeli military offensive, a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and permission for displaced Palestinians to return home.

Israel's immediate aim is to secure the release of hostages seized by Hamas in its Oct. 7 cross-border rampage.

It says it will not end the war until Hamas no longer controls Gaza or threatens Israel militarily.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli offensive began, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, with most of the 2.3 million population displaced and much of the enclave laid to waste.

Israel pulled back most ground forces from southern Gaza this week after months of fighting, but still says it plans to launch an assault on Rafah, on Gaza's southern border with Egypt, where more than half of Gazans are now sheltering.

Netanyahu has said civilians will be evacuated from Rafah before Israeli forces pursue Hamas' remaining battalions there, but that pledge has done little to calm international alarm.

The war began when Hamas led an attack on southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed and 253 taken hostage. Around 130 are still being held incommunicado in Gaza, Israel says.

By James Mackenzie

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