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US Eyes Israel-Hamas Ceasefire By Next Week

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

A new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could start as soon as Monday, US President Joe Biden said, in a deal that could include the exchange of dozens of hostages held in Gaza for several hundred Palestinian detainees.

In a protracted bid to bring about a truce, Egypt, Qatar, the United States, France and others have acted as go-betweens for Israel and Hamas, with negotiations ongoing.

They are seeking a six-week halt to the fighting and the release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza since Hamas's October 7 attack on southern Israel sparked the war.

A deal could include the release of several hundred Palestinian detainees held by Israel, media reports suggest.

"My hope is by next Monday we'll have a ceasefire," said Biden on Monday, when asked when an agreement could start, adding that "we're close, we're not done yet".

An unnamed Israeli official told news site Ynet the "direction is positive".

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani -- whose country hosts Hamas leaders and helped broker a one-week truce in November -- is due in Paris this week, according to the French presidency.

But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stressed any truce deal would delay, not prevent, a ground invasion of Rafah in the far south of the Gaza Strip, which he said was necessary to achieve "total victory" over Hamas.

With Israeli ground troops operating in every other major urban area of the Gaza Strip nearly five months into the war, an estimated 1.4 million Palestinian civilians have sought shelter in Rafah.

Netanyahu's office on Monday said the military had shown Israel's war cabinet its plan for evacuating civilians from Rafah, but no details have been released on where those displaced people could go._AFP

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