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Hamas Softens Demand for Permanent Cease-Fire in Truce Talks, Officials Say

Hamas is no longer demanding that Israel immediately agree to a permanent cease-fire in return for beginning a hostage and prisoner exchange, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

Hamas’s new proposal would allow the release of hostages in exchange for a phased pullback of Israeli troops from parts of the Gaza Strip as well as prisoner releases. By modifying demands for an outright end of hostilities, the new proposal could possibly restart negotiations.

The White House welcomed the new Hamas proposal and confirmed that talks would resume soon in Doha, Qatar, although without an American delegation present. “We’re cautiously optimistic that things are moving in a good direction but that doesn’t mean it’s done and we’re going to have to stick with it until the very end,” said John F. Kirby, a national security communications adviser for the White House.

The United States has been applying pressure on Hamas to resume talks and ease its demands. Various negotiating parties have been offering Gaza more promises of humanitarian aid and issuing vague threats to close down Hamas’s political office in Doha.

While publicly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel was dismissive of the new proposal, other Israeli officials have reacted more positively, given that last week Hamas refused to offer terms for a hostage swap.

Negotiators, including senior Israeli intelligence officials, could arrive in Doha as early as Sunday, according to an official in the region.

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