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Israel may allow Hamas leader to leave in exchange for release of hostages - media

Greater Middle East (, - Israel is ready to allow Hamas leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar to go into exile in exchange for the release of all prisoners and the end of the group's rule in the strip, Saudi Arabian channel Al Hadath reported, citing information from the American agency NBC News .

According to several Israeli officials, the idea of Sinwar's ouster paves the way for the creation of a new governing body in Gaza.

This comes as negotiations and diplomatic efforts to resolve the situation in the Palestinian enclave continue. At the same time, concerns are growing about the fate of more than a million Palestinians trapped in the city of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where Israel is preparing to launch an offensive, an NBC News report emphasizes.

The question remains whether hopes for a ceasefire are still relevant. American, Qatari and Egyptian mediators are trying to buy time to reach an agreement that would bring about a truce in Gaza and end the war, which is now in its fifth month, Al Hadath reported.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has optimistically stressed in recent statements that he still sees room for negotiations, warning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against any actions that stoke tensions.

Blinken's remarks came after the Israeli prime minister rejected Hamas' call for a four-month ceasefire as part of the deal with the prisoners, calling the proposal "illusory" and vowing to take military action in Rafah, Al Hadath reported, citing NBC News.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces released 71 Gazan detainees, including 19 women, who returned through the southern Karem Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing, Al Jazeera reported, citing Palestinian news agency Wafa.

Israel has not disclosed the number of Palestinians arrested or forcibly disappeared from the Gaza Strip since the ground invasion began in late October last year. There are 19 prisons in Israel and one in the occupied West Bank that house Palestinian prisoners.

The number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons stood at more than 8,800 at the end of December, according to Palestinian prisoners' rights groups. This includes more than 3,290 administrative detainees held indefinitely without charge or trial, Al Jazeera reported.

Israel may allow Hamas leader to leave in exchange for release of hostages - media