Hostage deal talks begin in Paris amid optimism for breakthrough

Gaza truce talks are underway in Paris on Friday, in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting in the battered Palestinian enclave and see Israeli and foreign hostages released.

A source briefed on the ceasefire talks, who could not be identified by name or nationality, says talks had begun with Israel’s head of Mossad intelligence service meeting separately with each party — Qatar, Egypt and the United States.

“There are budding signs of optimism about being able to move forward toward the start of a serious negotiation,” the source says. Egypt’s Al Qahera TV News also reports that the talks had begun.

An official from Hamas says the terror group has wrapped up ceasefire talks in Cairo and is now waiting to see what mediators bring back from the weekend talks with Israel.

Mediators have ramped up efforts to secure a ceasefire in Gaza, in the hope of heading off an Israeli assault on the Gaza city of Rafah where more than a million displaced people are sheltering at the southern edge of the enclave.

Israel says it will attack the city if no truce agreement is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to do so, warning of vast civilian casualties if an assault on the city goes ahead.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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