Gaza ceasefire efforts show signs of revival


Signs of renewed activity emerged on Wednesday in the quest for a ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas in the nine-month-old war in the Gaza Strip while Israel launched more strikes on the devastated enclave.

After weeks with little public diplomacy, mediators Egypt and Qatar delivered a response from Hamas to a proposal that would include a release of hostages held in Gaza and a ceasefire in the Palestinian enclave.

Israel is studying the document, said a statement released by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office on behalf of the Mossad spy agency.

Egypt, Qatar and the United States have been trying for months to secure a truce and the release of 120 remaining hostages in Gaza, but their efforts have repeatedly failed.

Hamas says any deal must end the war and bring a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel says it will accept only temporary pauses in the fighting until Hamas is eradicated.

"Israel is examining the response and will respond to the mediators," the Mossad statement said without further details.

Hamas said in a statement that its leader Ismail Haniyeh had calls with Qatari and Egyptian mediators around ideas to reach a deal to end the war in Gaza as well as communication with Turkish officials.

The New York Times reported that Israel's top generals want a Gaza ceasefire even if it keeps Hamas in power for the time being, widening a rift between the military and Netanyahu, who has opposed a truce that would let Hamas survive.

The commanders believe a ceasefire would be the best way to secure the release of the remaining Israeli hostages, and they think over-stretched Israeli forces, running low on munitions, need to regroup in case a wider war breaks out with Lebanon's Hezbollah, the report said, citing six current and former Israeli security officials.

An Israeli strike killed top Hezbollah commander Mohammed Nasser in south Lebanon on Wednesday, prompting retaliatory rocket fire by the Iran-backed group into Israel as their dangerously poised conflict rumbled on.

Sparked by the Gaza war, the hostilities with Lebanon have raised concerns about a wider conflict between the heavily armed adversaries, prompting US diplomatic efforts aimed at deescalation.

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