Hamas official says ceasefire needed to locate Gaza hostages


A senior Hamas official said Thursday that only a ceasefire can provide "enough time and safety" to locate Israeli hostages held across the Gaza Strip and ascertain their fate.

Negotiations for a ceasefire have been under way in Cairo since Sunday, but so far there has been no breakthrough on a proposal presented by U.S., Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

"Part of (the) negotiations is to reach a ceasefire agreement to have enough time and safety to collect final and more precise data about the captured Israelis," Hamas official Bassem Naim said in a statement.

This is "because they are (held) in different places by different groups, some of them are under the rubble killed with our own people, and we negotiate to get heavy equipments for this purpose," the Hamas political bureau member said.

Hamas acknowledged early last month that it did not know which of the 129 hostages still captive in Gaza remained alive.

Naim added that the fate of the hostages, while paramount for the Israeli side, was just one topic of the Cairo talks.

"It’s a ceasefire negotiations and not a prisoner deal negotiations, the prisoners deal is one of the items to be negotiated," he said.

Another senior Hamas official, Taher al-Nunu, said that "what has been offered to us in the latest round of negotiations regarding the ceasefire so far does not meet our demands".

He pointed to Israeli demands for "a temporary ceasefire and to keep their forces in the Gaza Strip" as points of contention.

Mediators have put together a framework for a deal that would include a six-week halt to fighting and the exchange of about 40 hostages for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

It would also see increased aid deliveries to Gaza and many displaced Palestinians returning to what is left of their homes.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, resulting in the deaths of 1,170 people, most of them civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Israel's retaliatory offensive against Hamas has killed 33,545 people in Gaza, most of them women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory's health ministry.

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