Israeli negotiators have supplied a major concession in cease-fire talks with Hamas, signaling that they is perhaps open to releasing high-profile Palestinians jailed on terrorism prices in change for some Israeli hostages nonetheless being held within the Gaza Strip, in keeping with two officers with information of the talks.

President Biden mentioned Monday that he believed negotiators have been nearing an settlement that might halt Israel’s army operations in Gaza inside every week, although earlier within the day, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was nonetheless speaking about additional army motion.

Mr. Netanyahu mentioned that the Israeli army had offered a plan to the struggle cupboard to evacuate civilians from “areas of combating” in Gaza. He gave the impression to be talking of Israel’s long-expected invasion of Rafah, the southern metropolis the place greater than half of Gaza’s inhabitants is sheltering, many in makeshift tents.

Mr. Netanyahu didn’t disclose any particulars of the evacuation plan, and it was not clear whether or not he was utilizing the prospect of an invasion as a cudgel to achieve leverage within the negotiations. On Sunday, he mentioned an invasion could possibly be “delayed somewhat” if Hamas agreed to launch Israeli hostages.

Many international locations and worldwide help teams have warned that an invasion of Rafah may result in mass casualties on prime of the practically 30,000 Gazans who, in keeping with the territory’s well being officers, have already been killed within the struggle.

Talking with reporters in New York on Monday, Mr. Biden sounded optimistic a few deal to pause the combating. “We’re shut,” he mentioned. “We’re not executed but. My hope is by subsequent Monday, we’ll have a cease-fire.”

As hostage talks continued, the 2 officers mentioned that Israeli negotiators had privately agreed to a proposal by the US that might free 5 feminine Israeli troopers being held in Gaza in change for the discharge of 15 Palestinians convicted of great terrorism prices.

The officers spoke on the situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the discussions, which happened throughout a gathering with officers from Egypt, Qatar and the US in Paris final week.

The Netanyahu authorities had beforehand prevented such a concession partially as a result of the discharge of Palestinians tied to main acts of terrorism, even in change for Israeli hostages, may expose it to vital home criticism.

Requested concerning the negotiators’ place, Mr. Netanyahu’s workplace declined to remark.

The reported concession got here as officers raced to achieve a deal earlier than the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, in about two weeks. An Israeli delegation was expected to arrive in Qatar as quickly as Monday to proceed negotiations with worldwide mediators.

The concession is a part of a broader U.S. proposal that might enable for the discharge of 40 of the roughly 100 hostages who have been captured within the Oct. 7 Hamas-led assaults and believed to be nonetheless alive in Gaza.

Along with the 5 feminine troopers, they embrace 35 civilians, a few of whom are sick, wounded or frail. Seven of the 35 are girls who Israel believes ought to have been launched over the past cease-fire and prisoner swap in November. For the discharge of these seven girls, Israel has proposed releasing 21 Palestinians from its jails, the identical three-to-one ratio noticed throughout the earlier change.

The discharge of male Israeli troopers can be the topic of a separate negotiation, one of many officers mentioned.

Hamas has not responded to the provide. The group has known as for Israel to withdraw from Gaza, abide by a long-term cease-fire and free Palestinians held in Israeli jails in change for the remaining hostages.

However in keeping with one of many officers, Israeli intelligence officers consider that Hamas’s chief in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has develop into extra amenable in current weeks to a deal that might enable for under a brief truce, with the hope that it will develop into everlasting.

Looming over the talks is the prospect of an Israeli incursion into Rafah, the place multiple million individuals are sheltering. Many fled to town after heeding Israeli orders to evacuate different components of Gaza, and are fighting an absence of meals, water and medication. Now there’s nowhere protected in Gaza left for them to go, many say.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian Authority’s chief, Mahmoud Abbas, condemned Mr. Netanyahu’s announcement of an evacuation plan, saying it confirmed Israeli’s intention “to storm town of Rafah.” He known as on the Biden administration to “cease this Israeli insanity.” The authority helps administer the Israeli-occupied West Financial institution.

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary normal, mentioned {that a} full-scale Israeli offensive in Rafah, which serves as a significant entry level for help from Egypt, “wouldn’t solely be terrifying for greater than one million Palestinian civilians sheltering there, it will put the ultimate nail within the coffin of our help applications.”

Mr. Netanyahu’s workplace mentioned in a statement {that a} new plan for offering humanitarian help to Gaza had been authorized after reports that determined Palestinians had ambushed help vans and brought meals and different provides. The federal government didn’t launch the plan or give additional particulars.

As Israel continued its offensive in Gaza, the Israeli army mentioned that in Lebanon, its fighter jets had struck Hezbollah air defenses within the Bekaa Valley, an space about 60 miles from the Israeli border. The targets have been deeper inside Lebanon than any space of the nation struck by Israel in recent times.

Israel mentioned that the strike was a response to a surface-to-air missile assault that downed an Israeli drone over southern Lebanon. Hezbollah had claimed accountability for that assault.

Not less than two Hezbollah fighters have been killed within the Israeli airstrikes and at the least six different folks have been wounded, in keeping with Bachir Khodor, mayor of the close by metropolis of Baalbek. Video from the scene offered by Mr. Khodor, which couldn’t be independently verified, confirmed a constructing lowered to rubble and other people on stretchers being loaded into an ambulance.

The Bekaa Valley, a fertile plain that runs alongside the Syrian border, has lengthy been a stronghold for Hezbollah, the politically highly effective Lebanese militia that has engaged in near-daily clashes with Israeli forces since Oct. 7. The combating has displaced more than 150,000 people on either side of the Lebanese-Israeli border and left a whole lot useless.

The Israeli army later confirmed that it had killed a Hezbollah commander in a focused strike earlier within the day in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah introduced the fighter’s loss of life in an announcement, however didn’t present particulars on his rank.

In an announcement, Hezbollah mentioned that it had retaliated by firing a rocket barrage at an Israeli military headquarters within the Golan Heights, the plateau that Israel seized in 1967. The Israeli army didn’t instantly touch upon the assertion.

The strikes got here after the Israeli protection minister, Yoav Gallant, mentioned on Sunday that the army was “planning to extend the firepower in opposition to Hezbollah,” and that it will not pause operations alongside the border with Lebanon even when there have been a brief halt to the combating in Gaza.

“We’ll improve the fireplace within the north individually and can proceed till the total withdrawal of Hezbollah and the return of Israeli civilians to their properties,” he mentioned.

Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah lawmaker within the Lebanese Parliament, mentioned on Monday that the newest spherical of Israeli strikes would “not go and not using a response.”

Reporting was contributed by Peter Baker, Julian E. Barnes, Mike Ives, Nick Cumming-Bruce, Hwaida Saad, Euan Ward and Johnatan Reiss.




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