Israel will not agree to halt in Gaza fighting without hostage return, official says

Israeli soldier sits atop a tank, amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, near the Israel-Gaza border, in southern Israel

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel will not agree to any halt in fighting in Gaza that is not part of a deal that includes a return of hostages, a senior Israeli security official said on Friday.

The comment came after a statement from Hamas declaring that it would be ready to reach an agreement including an exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners, as long as Israel stopped the fighting in Gaza.

"There will be no truce, or any halt in fighting whatsoever, in Gaza which is not part-and-parcel of a hostage-release deal," the official said in comments sent to Reuters. "Any ceasefire would arise solely within the framework of a deal."

(Reporting by Dan Williams, writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Hugh Lawson)