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Hamas says it responds positively to a complete ceasefire in Gaza


The Palestinian militant group Hamas said on Tuesday it had delivered its response to a proposed ceasefire deal for Gaza that would also involve the release of hostages.

In a statement Hamas said it responded "in a positive spirit, ensuring a comprehensive and complete ceasefire, ending the aggression against our people, ensuring relief, shelter, and reconstruction, lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip, and achieving a prisoner swap."

Hamas aims for the release of the largest possible number of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad told Reuters in a text message.

The Israeli prime minister's office said late on Tuesday that the details of the Hamas response were being "thoroughly evaluated by the officials involved in the negotiations."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a lightning tour of the Middle East, said on Tuesday he was reviewing the Hamas reponse, which he called the best hope for ending the four-month-old war in Gaza. 

Blinken, at a news conference in Qatar, declined to discuss details of Hamas's response to the ceasefire offer. 

"There's still a lot of work to be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible, and indeed essential," said Blinken, who also noted the response had been shared with Israel and that he would discuss it with officials in Israel on Wednesday.

At the joint press conference with Blinken, Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said his country received a "positive response" from Hamas on the latest Gaza ceasefire-for-hostage deal proposal, failing to provide further details.

Later that day, Egypt also confirmed that it had received the Hamas response. Chairman of Egypt's State Information Service (SIS) Diaa Rashwan stated that Egypt had recently put forward a framework aimed at bringing viewpoints closer between all concerned parties to stop Palestinian bloodshed, reach a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, and restore peace and stability to the region.

More than 27,500 people have been killed and over 64,900 have been injured in Gaza since Israeli attacks in the enclave, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, adding thousands more are missing and presumed dead.

On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant reiterated that the military's "next target" will be Rafah, Gaza's southernmost city and a shelter for more than 1 million people, where he claimed as Hamas' "last remaining stronghold" in the enclave.

(With input from agencies)

(Cover: Palestinian paramedics recover the remains of bodies rescued from a wrecked police vehicle following Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, February 6, 2024. /CFP)

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