Israel-Gaza War: Ceasefire Talks Intensify in Cairo

  • By Anna Foster & Andre Roden-Paul
  • Jerusalem and London

image source, Good pictures

image caption, Famine warnings have been issued in Gaza following months of Israeli bombardment

Efforts to secure a cease-fire and hostage-release deal in Gaza have intensified, with talks resuming in Cairo on Saturday.

Hamas said its representatives were traveling in a “positive mood” after examining the latest ceasefire proposal.

“We are committed to reaching an agreement that meets the demands of the Palestinians,” it said.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said that “taking a cease-fire is not an issue for the militant group.”

Hamas negotiators have returned to the Egyptian capital to resume long-running talks held by Egypt and Qatar – which would temporarily halt Israel’s offensive in Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages.

In a statement released last night, Hamas said it wanted to “mature” the deal on the table, indicating areas where the two sides still disagree.

The key issue seems to be whether the ceasefire agreement is permanent or temporary.

Hamas insists that any deal must include a specific commitment to end the war, but Israel is reluctant to agree while the group remains active in Gaza. The terms discussed are believed to include a 40-day pause in fighting while the hostages are freed and the release of several Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.

But the United States — Israel’s biggest diplomatic and military ally — is reluctant to support a new offensive that could cause significant civilian casualties, and has insisted it must look first to a plan to protect displaced Palestinians. 1.4 million people fleeing fighting in the northern and central parts of the Strip have taken refuge in Rafah.

Addressing the prospects for a cease-fire on Saturday, Minister Benny Gantz, a member of Israel’s war cabinet, said: “The official answer is yet to come. Once accepted – the war management cabinet will meet and discuss. Until then, ‘political sources’ and all decision-makers should wait for official announcements, act calmly and not get mad for political reasons. Would recommend.”

US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Williams Burns has traveled to Cairo to help broker the latest negotiations, two US officials told CBS News, the BBC’s US news partner.

Mr Blinken has also been a key figure in the negotiations and visited Israel again this week to meet with Mr Netanyahu. Speaking in Arizona on Friday, Mr Blinken said “Hamas is the only thing standing between the people of Gaza and a ceasefire”.

image caption, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to Israel this week to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

So far, ceasefire talks have been going on for months. There has been no pause in fighting or release of hostages since late November. There have been moments when a new deal seemed imminent, but a deal fell through before it could be signed.

A source told the Washington Post that the United States has urged Qatar to expel Hamas’ political leadership if Hamas continues to reject the ceasefire.

The war began after Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups attacked villages and military bases in southern Israel, killing at least 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages.

According to statistics from the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, 34,654 Palestinians have been killed and 77,908 injured during the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

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