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Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday ordered his spy chief to go to Qatar for talks with mediators on a cease-fire in the Gaza war that could prompt Hamas militants to release hostages captured in the October 7 attacks, sources said .

Amid renewed optimism about a possible breakthrough, Netanyahu called a meeting of his security cabinet for late Thursday to discuss new Hamas proposals sent through Qatari and Egyptian mediators, reports said.

Israel believes dozens of hostages are still alive in Gaza, and as the war takes a growing human toll in the devastated Palestinian territory, both sides face mounting international pressure to reach a deal.

Mossad chief David Barnea was to lead an Israeli delegation to Qatar that spent months trying to bring the enemies to the negotiating table, according to a source familiar with the talks. He was expected in Doha on Friday and was due to meet the Gulf state’s prime minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

Barnea’s delegation “travels to Qatar to continue talks on a ceasefire and hostage agreement.

“He will meet the Qatari prime minister for talks aimed at bringing the parties closer to an agreement in Gaza,” the source said on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the talks.

US President Joe Biden praised the decision to send a delegation to a telephone conversation with Netanyahu, the White House said. Biden welcomed the decision to get Israeli negotiators to “engage” with mediators in an attempt to “close the deal.”

The United States believes Israel and Hamas have a “fairly significant opening” to reaching an agreement on a ceasefire and the release of hostages, a senior US official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Hamas proposal was “moving forward and may provide the basis for a deal,” while stressing that it did not mean a deal was likely in the coming days and that “significant work” remained.

Hamas has called for an end to the war and an Israeli withdrawal as a prelude to any hostage deal.

Israel countered that the war cannot be ended without the release of the hostages. Netanyahu has also repeatedly vowed that the Gaza campaign will not end until Hamas’ military and governmental capabilities are destroyed.

Hamas said late Wednesday that it had submitted new “ideas” for a potential deal, and Netanyahu’s office said the government was “evaluating” them.

Qatar, Egypt and the United States have mediated between the two sides, and sources close to their efforts said they had been working for weeks to bridge the “gaps” between the foes.

Biden announced in May a path to a truce, which he said was proposed by Israel. This included a six-week truce to allow talks, the release of hostages and, ultimately, a program to rebuild devastated Gaza.

“There are important developments in the latest proposals with positive options for both sides,” said a diplomat briefed on the latest proposals. “This time, the Americans are very serious about it.”

The war began with the October 7 attack on southern Israel, which killed 1,195 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also captured 251 hostages, of whom 116 remain in Gaza, including 42 the military says are dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 38,011 people, most of them civilians, according to Health Ministry figures in the Hamas-ruled territory.

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