Israel truce team leaves Doha, official blames Hamas for 'dead end'

Credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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JERUSALEM, March 26 (Reuters) - Israel has recalled its negotiators from Doha after deeming mediated talks on a Gaza truce "at a dead end" due to demands by Hamas, a senior Israeli official said on Tuesday.

The official, who is close to the Mossad spymaster heading up the talks, accused Hamas' Gaza leader Yahya Sinwar of sabotaging the diplomacy "as part of a wider effort to inflame this war over Ramadan".

The warring sides had stepped up negotiations, mediated by Qatar and Egypt, on a six-week suspension of Israel's offensive in return for the proposed release of 40 of the 130 hostages still held by the Palestinian militant group in Gaza.

Hamas has sought to parlay any deal into an end to the fighting and withdrawal of Israeli forces. Israel has ruled this out, saying it would eventually resume efforts to dismantle the governance and military capabilities of Hamas.

Hamas also wants hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled Gaza City and surrounding areas southward during the first stage of the almost six-month-old war to be allowed back north.

The Israeli official said that Israel had agreed to double the number of Palestinians it would release for the hostages at to 700-800 prisoners and allow some displaced Palestinians to return to northern Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Tuesday Hamas had made "delusional" demands, which it said showed the Palestinians were not interested in a deal.

Hamas has accused Israel of stalling at the talks while it carries out its military offensive.

The discussions, mediated by Egypt and Qatar, are continuing as a humanitarian crisis devastates Palestinians in Gaza with severe shortages of food, medicine and hospital care. Concerns are growing that famine will take hold.

(Reporting by Dan Williams; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean)


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