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Hamas, Israel eye expansion of hostage deal criteria

DUBAI/JERUSALEM — Hamas said it had sought a new truce deal with Israel under which the Palestinian militant group would free hostages beyond the women and children it has already released from the Gaza Strip.

The remarks by Hamas official Khalil al-Hayya late on Monday came as Israel expanded the roster of Palestinian detainees it could release in exchange for hostages — another signal that a revision of truce terms was being considered.

“We hope the Occupation (Israel) abides (by the agreement) in the next two days because we are seeking a new agreement, besides women and children, whereby other categories that we have that we can swap,” Mr. Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera.

That, he said, would entail “going towards an additional time period to continue swapping people at this stage.”

On Monday, the original four-day truce was extended by two more days.

Under the Qatari- and Egyptian-mediated deal clinched last week, Hamas has freed 50 Israeli women and children hostages in return for 150 Palestinian detainees released by Israel, with an option of doubling those numbers if the truce is extended by five days.

Accordingly, Israel had originally pre-cleared 300 Palestinian women and teenaged male detainees for prospective release.

Late on Monday, the Israeli cabinet added 50 female prisoners to that roster, according to officials.

Asked to explain the new number — which, not being divisible by three, suggested a new exchange formula might be in the works — Israeli government spokespeople did not immediately respond.

Hamas seized some 240 people during its Oct. 7 cross-border killing spree that sparked the Gaza war. Among hostages it still holds are fathers and husbands of those it has freed in recent days. — Reuters

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