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Progress in cease-fire, hostage-release talks

CAIRO — Israel and Hamas are making progress toward another cease-fire and hostage-release deal, officials said Tuesday, as negotiations went on and Israel planned to expand its offensive to Gaza’s southern edge, where some 1.4 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

The talks continued in Egypt a day after Israeli forces rescued two captives in Rafah, the packed southern town along the Egyptian border, in a raid that killed at least 74 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry.

A cease-fire deal would give people in Gaza a desperately needed respite from the war, now in its fifth month, and offer freedom for at least some of the estimated 100 people still held captive in Gaza. Qatar, the United States and Egypt have sought to broker a deal in the face of starkly disparate positions expressed publicly by both Israel and Hamas.

Israel has made destroying Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and freeing the hostages the main goals of its war, which was launched after thousands of Hamas-led terrorists rampaged through southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and taking roughly 250 people captive. Tens of thousands of Israelis were displaced from destroyed communities.

The war has brought unprecedented destruction to the Gaza Strip, with more than 28,000 people killed, more than 70 percent of them women and minors, according to local health officials. Around 80 percent of the population has been displaced and a humanitarian catastrophe has pushed more than a quarter of the population toward starvation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on until “total victory,” and has insisted that military pressure will help free the hostages. But the rescued hostages, 60-year-old Fernando Marman and 70-year-old Louis Har, were just the second and third captives to be freed by the military since the war erupted.

Other Israeli officials have said only a deal can bring about the release of large numbers of hostages.

Over 100 were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel during a weeklong truce last year.

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