Israel to send delegation to Doha for fresh Gaza ceasefire talks next week

Israel on Friday said it would send a delegation to Doha next week to negotiate a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release deal. "There are still gaps between the parties," Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s spokesman said after a first round of talks that were held earlier in the day.

The statement from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's spokesman came after a delegation led by the head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, held a first round of talks with mediators in Doha on Friday.

"It was agreed that next week Israeli negotiators will travel to Doha to continue the talks. There are still gaps between the parties," the spokesman said in a statement.

There has been no truce in the nine-month-old war in Gaza since a one-week pause in November saw 80 Israeli hostages freed in return for 240 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The United States, which has worked alongside Qatar and Egypt in trying to broker a deal, had talked up the significance of Netanyahu's decision to send a delegation to Qatar.

The United States believes Israel and Hamas have a "pretty significant opening" to reach an agreement, a senior official said.

The militants also seized hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza including 42 the military says are dead.

The Israeli leader has faced a well-organised protest movement demanding a deal to free the hostages, which took to the streets again on Thursday evening.

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