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JERUSALEM: Hopes rose Monday for a long-sought truce and hostage release deal after almost seven months of war between Palestinian Hamas and Israel in Gaza.

Washington’s top diplomat said he was “hopeful” Hamas would accept the offer, which his British counterpart said could see the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners.

Negotiators from Hamas were due in Egypt, a mediator in the process along with the United States and Qatar. For months they have been trying to broker a new agreement between the combatants, the first since a one-week truce in November saw 80 Israeli hostages exchanged for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Diplomacy in the past few days appeared to suggest a new push to halt the fighting.

The war has brought Gaza to the brink of famine, United Nations and humanitarian aid groups say, while reducing much of the territory to rubble and raising fears of a wider regional conflict.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a World Economic Forum special meeting in Riyadh that the proposal before Hamas is “extraordinarily, extraordinarily generous on the part of Israel.”

He urged the group to “decide quickly”, saying: “I’m hopeful that they will make the right decision.”

Blinken is on his seventh visit to the region since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel that sparked the war.

Talks “are taking place in Cairo today”, said Al-Qahera News, which is linked to Egyptian intelligence services.

A senior Hamas official said Sunday the group had no “major issues” with the latest truce plan.

Speaking at the WEF meeting, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said “the proposal has taken into account the positions of both sides.”

While there was no “final decision” yet, Shoukry said: “We are hopeful... I hope that all will rise to the occasion.”

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron told the same gathering that Hamas has been offered a “sustained 40 days’ ceasefire, the release of potentially thousands of Palestinian prisoners, in return for the release of these hostages.” Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan meanwhile said a new deal would “be very, very positive... But it’s absolutely necessary that any ceasefire be permanent, not temporary”.

In their attack, militants seized hostages, 129 of whom Israel estimates to remain in Gaza including 34 the military says are dead.

Hamas’s attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,170 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 34,488 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory.

The tally includes at least 34 deaths in the past 24 hours, the ministry said. That is down from a peak this month of at least 153 deaths on April 9.

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