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Hamas Links Release of Hostages to Israeli Offensive Halt

In the latest development surrounding the hostage crisis in Gaza, Hamas has reiterated that releasing the 132 hostages held would be contingent on a guaranteed end to the Israeli offensive and the withdrawal of all invasion forces from the region. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri emphasized this stance after Israel engaged in talks with Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

“The success of the Paris meeting is dependent on the Occupation (Israel) agreeing to end the comprehensive aggression on Gaza Strip,” Abu Zuhri told Reuters. The conditions set by Hamas raise questions about whether the release of all or some of the hostages would follow the fulfillment of these demands.

Hamas had previously stated that a complete release would necessitate Israel freeing all Palestinians held on security grounds in its prisons. A Palestinian official close to the mediation talks revealed that for Hamas to consider a follow-up deal to the November truce, Israel would need to commit to ending the offensive and withdrawing from Gaza, with the implementation not necessarily immediate. The agreement would require endorsement from Qatar, Egypt, and the United States.

In a separate development, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi accentuated the importance of facilitating humanitarian aid into Gaza. The conflict between Israel and Hamas has heightened the urgency of improving access for aid and supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The situation on the ground remains tense, with Israel’s military reporting the killing of dozens of Palestinian gunmen across Gaza in the past 24 hours. Intensive battles in Khan Younis have been marked by the destruction of two Israeli tanks, according to Hamas’ armed wing. Medical facilities in Khan Younis are at risk of collapse, as Israeli forces continue their operations.

The Gaza Health Ministry reported a grim toll, stating that at least 26,637 people have been killed in the Palestinian territory during the war, including 215 deaths in the past 24 hours. The number of wounded individuals since October 7 stands at 65,387, underlining the severe humanitarian impact of the ongoing conflict.

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