Qatar-mediated deal between Israel, Hamas 'closer than it has ever been' - source

Palestinians walk at the site of Israeli strikes on houses, in Jabalia refugee camp

DUBAI (Reuters) -A Qatar-mediated agreement between Israel and Hamas for the release of hostages and a multi-day pause in hostilities is in its "final stages" and is "closer than it has ever been," a source briefed on the talks told Reuters on Tuesday.

The deal brokers the release of around 50 civilian hostages by Hamas and the release of Palestinian women and children from Israeli custody, the source briefed on the talks said.

The agreement would mark the biggest hostage release and first prisoner swap since the war began on Oct. 7. Hamas took about 240 hostages during its rampage into Israel, which Israeli authorities say killed 1,200 people.

The chief of Hamas told Reuters earlier on Tuesday that the Palestinian militant group was near a truce agreement with Israel, even as the deadly assault on Gaza continued and rockets were being fired into Israel.

Israel has generally avoided giving commentary on the status of the Qatar-led talks. Israel's Channel 12 television quoted an unidentified senior government source saying "they are close" but gave no further details.

(Reporting by Andrew Mills and Clauda Tanios; Editing by Nadine Awadalla, Michael Georgy, Alexandra Hudson)