Divisions within Hamas stall hostage-ceasefire negotiations: Wall Street Journal

A leading US newspaper says Hamas leaders are divided over a proposal to release hostages in exchange for a pause in fighting in the Gaza Strip.

In talks mediated by Qatar and others, negotiators discussed the proposal that Israel will pause its offensive in Gaza for six weeks in return for the release of hostages held by the Islamic group.

The Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing sources familiar with the negotiations, that Hamas's top leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, and others are ready to accept the proposal because they think it would allow Hamas's forces to regroup.

The newspaper added that the group's exiled political members, including leader Ismail Haniyeh, want to negotiate a permanent ceasefire.

Haniyeh issued a statement on Friday stressing his intent to seek a complete end to the Israeli offensive and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The United States has been involved in the negotiations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken is scheduled to visit Israel and Qatar from Sunday through Thursday in an apparent effort to broker a deal.

Health authorities in Gaza announced on Saturday the death toll from the Israeli attacks had risen to 27,238 as Israeli forces continued their operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis and other cities.