Ismail Haniyeh, leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, said on Tuesday that a ceasefire agreement with Israel was in sight.
Concerned family members now hope this means that the approximately 240 people who were taken hostage during Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on October 7 can finally be released.
“We are close to reaching an agreement on a ceasefire,” Haniyeh said in a statement his office sent to AFP.
However, Israel did not immediately respond to this statement from Hamas.
Sources from Hamas and Islamic Jihad – which also took part in the attacks – told AFP on condition of anonymity that their groups had agreed to the terms of a ceasefire.
The tentative agreement reportedly includes a five-day ceasefire. This reportedly involves a ceasefire on the ground as well as restrictions on Israeli air operations over southern Gaza.
Under the purported deal, between 50 and 100 Israeli civilian and foreign hostages will be released, but no military personnel.
In return, around 300 Palestinians will be released from Israeli prisons, including women and children, say AFP’s sources.
According to the Hamas and Islamic Jihad sources, the agreement will also allow up to 300 trucks of food and medical aid to enter Gaza.
US President Joe Biden also said on Monday that he believed an agreement was close.
This follows after Qatari mediators said they were moving ever closer to an agreement to free some of the 240 hostages held by Hamas militants since October 7.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday that its president had since traveled to Qatar to meet with Hamas’s Haniyeh.
A ceasefire agreement could bring some relief to civilians in Gaza who have been trying to survive in the middle of a war for six weeks.
Large parts of Gaza have been destroyed in airstrikes as part of Israel’s retaliatory campaign. The Gaza Strip is now under siege, with minimal food, water and fuel allowed to enter the enclave.
Israel had earlier pledged to continue its retaliatory campaign, destroy Hamas and secure the release of all the hostages.
“We will not stop fighting until we bring our hostages home,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared after meeting relatives of the hostages earlier.