Israeli official says 'progress' made in hostage deal talks

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An Israeli official said on Monday that progress has been made in the Qatar-mediated talks aimed at freeing some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

According to Israel's state-owned Kan TV news, the proposed deal includes the release of about 50 women and children, who would be released in several stages. In exchange, Palestinian women and minors currently held in Israeli prisons would be released, in addition to a few-day pause in the relentless Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

The government official, speaking to Xinhua on condition of anonymity, said that talks resumed on Sunday after a brief hiatus during which Hamas refused to negotiate, citing Israeli raids on Al-Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest medical center.

"There is progress in the efforts to free the hostages but nothing is final yet," said the official.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Herzog said on Sunday that he was "hopeful" that a deal could be signed "in the coming days."

Israel's war cabinet -- composed of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the newly appointed minister Benny Gantz -- is expected to meet on Monday evening with representatives of the families of the hostages for updates.

About 240 hostages, comprising civilians, soldiers, children, women, and the elderly of various nationalities, were taken to Gaza by Hamas militants during their surprise attacks on southern Israel on Oct. 7. About 1,200 people in Israel were killed in the attacks, mostly civilians. In the massive offensive launched by Israel on the very same day, at least 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, primarily civilians, according to the government media office in the besieged Gaza Strip.

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