Hamas says it captured Israeli soldiers in Gaza

The comments by Abu Ubaida came hours after prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew on Saturday…reports Asian Lite News

A spokesman for Hamas’ armed wing said on Sunday its fighters had captured Israeli soldiers during fighting in Jabalia in northern Gaza on Saturday, though the Israeli military denied the claim.

The Hamas armed wing spokesman did not say how many soldiers had been abducted and showed no proof of the claim. “Our fighters lured a Zionist force into an ambush inside a tunnel … The fighters withdrew after they left all members of the force dead, wounded, and captured,” Abu Ubaida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades, said in a recorded message broadcast by Al-Jazeera early on Sunday.

The Israeli military on Sunday denied the claim by Hamas’ armed wing.

“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) clarifies that there is no incident in which a soldier was abducted,” the military said in a statement.

Hamas released a video that appeared to show a bloodied person being dragged along the ground in a tunnel and photos of military fatigue and rifle. Reuters could not independently verify the identity of the person shown in the video nor his or her condition.

The comments by Abu Ubaida came hours after prospects for a resumption of mediated Gaza ceasefire talks grew on Saturday.

An official with knowledge of the matter said a decision had been taken to resume the talks next week after the chief of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar.

The source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, said it had been decided that “in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement.”

After more than seven months of war in Gaza, the mediators have struggled to secure a breakthrough, with Israel seeking the release of hostages held by Hamas and Hamas seeking an end to the war and a release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Nearly 36,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s offensive, Gaza’s health ministry says. Israel began the operation in response to Hamas-led militants attacking southern Israeli communities on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel agrees to resume hostage deal talks with Hamas

Israel has agreed to renew talks with Hamas on a hostage deal next week, with the mediation of Egypt, Qatar and the US, Israel’s state-owned Kan TV reported on Saturday.

According to the report, at a meeting in Paris on Friday, David Barnea, the chief of the Israeli Mossad intelligence agency, presented a new proposal approved by the Israeli war cabinet to William Burns, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency, and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

An Israeli government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Barnea had returned to Israel on Saturday morning following his meeting with William Burns and Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani in Paris, Xinhua news agency reported.

The official told Xinhua that the three officials discussed the basis for continuing negotiations next week under the new proposals put forward by Egypt and Qatar, with the participation of the United States.

Kan TV reported that Burns had offered potential solutions to the contentious issues that had stalled previous negotiations, adding that the upcoming talks will be led by Egypt and Qatar, with active involvement from the United States.

The previous round of ceasefire negotiations in the Gaza Strip, which took place in Egypt, collapsed earlier this month.

Italy to resume UNRWA funding

Italy has announced that it will restore the funding for the United Nations Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) months after it suspended aid to the agency over Israel’s allegations linking UN staff to the October 7 attack, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday.

Rome joins several Western donors in resuming aid after an independent review of UNRWA, led by French former foreign minister Catherine Colonna, found that Israel had “not provided any evidence” to back its claims.

Hamas launched a massive terror attack on Israel on October 7 last year killing over 1200 people and around 250 being held hostages. Following this, Israel launched a strong counteroffensive in the Gaza Strip which has killed over 35,000 people including Hamas members as well as civilians including women and children.

Most of the key donors, including the United States and the European Union, have resumed funding due to the unprecedented humanitarian situation in Gaza, which was worsened by restrictions imposed by Israel on aid delivery.

“Italy has decided to resume financing specific projects intended for assistance to Palestinian refugees, but only after rigorous controls that guarantee that not even a penny risks ending up supporting terrorism,” Italy’s Vice President Antonio Tajani told Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Mustafa during a meeting on Saturday.

Tajani said he had informed the visiting premier “that the government has arranged new funding for the Palestinian population, for a total of 35 million euros (USD 38 million)”.

“Of this, five million will be allocated to UNRWA,” he said in a statement, with the remaining 30 million euros allocated to Italy’s “Food for Gaza” initiative in coordination with other UN aid agencies.

Mustafa also held talks with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni during which the Italian PM told Mustafa that Rome supported efforts towards a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza, the release of Israeli captives held by Hamas, and improved humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza, her office said in a statement, as reported by Al Jazeera.

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