Hamas tells mediators it will stick to original position on ceasefire

CAIRO: Palestinian Islamist group Hamas said on Monday it has informed mediators that it will stick to its original proposal on reaching a comprehensive ceasefire, which includes the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and a return of displaced Palestinians.

It also demanded what it called "a real exchange of prisoners", referring to the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails in exchange for Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

There was no immediate comment from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Hamas presented a Gaza ceasefire proposal to mediators and the United States in mid-March that included the release of Israeli hostages in exchange for freedom for Palestinian prisoners, 100 of whom are serving life sentences, according to a proposal seen by Reuters.

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after the United States abstained from the vote, sparking a spat with its ally Israel.

The remaining 14 council members voted for the resolution - proposed by the 10 elected members of the body - that also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. There was applause in the council chamber after the vote.

Egypt and Qatar have been trying to narrow differences between Israel and Hamas over what a ceasefire should look like as a deepening humanitarian crisis has the population in Gaza at risk of famine.

Hamas said the initial release of Israelis would include women, children, elderly and ill hostages in return for the release of 700-1000 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, according to the proposal. The release of Israeli "female recruits" is included.

Netanyahu's office later responded to Hamas' proposal saying it was based on "unrealistic demands," vowing to press ahead with its ground offensive until it eliminates Hamas. --REUTERS

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