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Hamas less willing to negotiate hostage release after killing of top commander in Beirut, Qatar tells families

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Qatari officials told family members of American and Israeli hostages that negotiations with Hamas have become more difficult following the killing of top Hamas commander Saleh al-Arouri last week.

Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani made the statement to family members of six U.S. and Israeli hostages, Axios reported Saturday. Al-Arouri was killed in an explosion while in Beirut, Lebanon last week, and no group has taken responsibility for the incident.

Prior to al-Arouri’s killing, Hamas had expressed openness to exchanging 40 additional Israeli hostages for 120 Palestinians held in Israeli prisons. Israel rejected that and a prior deal that would have imposed a months-long cease-fire in the region.

Israel, the U.S., Qatar, Egypt and Hamas had continued negotiating, but apparently ran into difficulties when al-Arouri was killed on Jan. 2.

Israeli officials believe there are roughly 133 hostages remaining in Gaza, though the U.S. has cautioned that there is no way to be sure how many of them are still alive.

Israeli officials have denied involvement in the strike that killed al-Arouri, but noted the ‘surgical’ precision of the attack.

‘Israel has not taken responsibility for this attack. But whoever did it must be clear that this was not an attack on the Lebanese state,’ Netanyahu adviser Ambassador Mark Regev told MSNBC.

He continued, ‘It was not even an attack on Hezbollah terrorist organization. Whoever did this did a surgical strike against the Hamas leadership.’

Arouri was among the founders of Hamas’ military wing and has overseen the terrorist group’s operations in the West Bank. He was one of Israel’s top targets in the war alongside Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and others.

While Israel remains open to a hostage deal on the right terms, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that the war against Hamas in Gaza will last for ‘many more months.’

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