Tel Aviv, December 20: Israel has proposed to Hamas a week-long cessation of war in Gaza for the release of 40 hostages, CNN reported. The hostages, including women, the elderly, and those in urgent need, would be part of the deal presented to Hamas through Qatari mediators, CNN reported, citing Axios.

Michael Herzog, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, acknowledges Israel's readiness for a pause in fighting to maximise hostage releases but refrains from confirming a finalised deal. "I think it's premature to tell whether or not we have a deal because, until now, Hamas refused to do another deal," Herzog told CNN. Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Deal: Gaza Truce Will Extend for Every Day Hamas Releases 10 ‘Living’ Hostages, Says Israeli Official.

"They were hoping for a permanent ceasefire, but I hope that under the pressure of what we're doing on the ground, plus the pressure from the Qataris, they will agree to do a deal, but it's premature at this phase," he said. Hamas insists on a ceasefire before releasing more hostages.

The ongoing diplomatic efforts occur amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in the besieged strip. According to the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health, Israeli military actions in Gaza since October 7 have resulted in nearly 20,000 deaths and over 52,000 injuries.

Simultaneously, airstrikes have devastated much of northern Gaza, leading to the displacement of almost 1.9 million people, constituting more than 80 per cent of the enclave's population, according to the United Nations, CNN reported. Israel-Hamas Ceasefire Deal: Israel Prison Releases 30 Palestinian Prisoners on Fifth Day of Truce.

Meanwhile, UNICEF spokesperson James Elder has expressed deep concern about the safety of children and families in Gaza's hospitals, emphasising that they are not secure amid the recent shelling. "Over the past 48 hours, the largest remaining fully functioning hospital was shelled twice. That hospital--Al Nasser in Khan Younis--not only shelters large numbers of children who had already been badly injured in attacks on their homes, but hundreds of women and children seeking safety," Elder said in Geneva on Tuesday after a recent visit to Gaza.

UNICEF's Elder highlighted the dilemma faced by children and families, stating that hospitals, shelters, and so-called 'safe' zones are not providing adequate safety. "And so where do children and their families go? They are not safe in hospitals. They are not safe in shelters. And they are certainly not safe in the so-called 'safe' zones," CNN quoted Elder as saying. He raised concerns about the deteriorating conditions in these safe zones, warning that they are becoming areas of disease due to the lack of water, sanitation, and shelter. If this situation persists, Elder cautioned that child deaths from disease could surpass those caused by bombardments.

The IDF has maintained its position that hospitals are not intentionally targeted, emphasising their focus on what they term "Hamas strongholds." Hamas, in turn, denies accusations of using Gaza hospitals for its operations, CNN reported.

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