A senior Hamas official said on Wednesday that the Palestinian Islamist movement was ready to release all Israeli soldiers it was holding in exchange for all Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
"We are ready to release all the soldiers in exchange for all our prisoners," said Bassem Naim, a senior Hamas official and former Health Minister in Gaza, at a press conference in the South African city of Cape Town.
Mr. Naim added that Hamas was engaged in "difficult negotiations" to extend the current truce, which is due to end on Thursday. "We are trying, with the mediators, to negotiate a permanent ceasefire," he said.
The current truce began last Friday for four days, before being extended a first time for two days. Since then, the parties have been holding talks with the mediators - led by Qatar - to ensure that fighting does not resume in the Gaza Strip, where the humanitarian situation is disastrous.
Since then, 74 hostages and dual nationals have been released, including women and children, compared with 180 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails, again including women and men under 19.
Among the 240 Israelis taken hostage in Gaza are soldiers, who have so far been excluded from hostage-for-prisoner exchange agreements.
In 2011, over a thousand Palestinian prisoners were exchanged for the soldier Gilad Shalit, held by Hamas for five years.
Palestinian organizations claim that over 7,000 Palestinians are held in Israeli prisons.
Last month, Hamas offered to exchange all the hostages it was holding for all the Palestinian prisoners.
On Wednesday, the Israeli army said it had "verified" Hamas's announcement of the death of a ten-month-old baby, the youngest of the hostages kidnapped on October 7, his mother and his four-year-old brother.
"We confirmed two or three weeks ago that 60 Israelis had been killed in Israeli shelling and are still under the rubble," added Mr. Naim. "I can confirm that this woman and her two children are among them.