PARIS TALKS

The war started after Hamas’s unprecedented Oct 7 attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,514 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by Gaza’s health ministry.

The toll has put pressure on US President Joe Biden to rein in its ally Israel – which it provides with billions of dollars in military aid.

White House envoy Brett McGurk held talks this week with Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, after meeting with other mediators in Cairo who had met Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh earlier this week.

A Hamas source said the new plan proposes a six-week pause in the conflict and the release of between 200 and 300 Palestinian prisoners, in exchange for 35 to 40 hostages still held by Hamas.

Barnea and his US counterpart from the CIA helped broker a week-long truce in November that saw the release of 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

Washington’s National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told journalists that so far the discussions were “going well”, while Israeli war cabinet member Benny Gantz spoke of “the first signs that indicate the possibility of progress”.

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