Israel-Hamas war: Ceasefire talks expected to resume in Qatar

CAIRO (AP) — Talks aimed at securing a ceasefire have stalled Israel-Hamas war It is expected to resume in Qatar as soon as Sunday, according to Egyptian officials.

This is the first time that both Israeli officials and Hamas leaders have joined the secret talks since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. International mediators had hoped to secure a six-week ceasefire earlier Ramadan started earlier this weekBut Hamas has rejected any deal that does not lead to a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and Israel has rejected the demand.

But both sides have made moves in recent days to get the talks back on track, which have never been completely broken off.

Palestinians perform the first Friday prayers of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Friday, March 15, 2024, near the ruins of a mosque destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in Rafah, Gaza Strip. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

Hamas presented mediators with a new plan for a three-phase plan, according to two Egyptian officials who were involved in the negotiations and briefed on them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the content of the sensitive discussions.

The first phase, a six-week ceasefire, will see the release of 35 hostages – women, the sick and the elderly – in exchange for 350 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel from militants in Gaza.

Hamas will release at least five female soldiers in exchange for 50 prisoners. Some of them have been sentenced to long prison terms on terrorism charges. Israeli forces will withdraw from two main roads in Gaza, allowing displaced Palestinians to return to northern Gaza. Destroyed by fightingand allow free flow of aid to the area, officials said.

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One in three children under the age of 2 in the isolated north is severely malnourished, the UN children's agency said on Friday.

In a second phase, the two sides will declare a permanent ceasefire, and Hamas will release the remaining Israeli soldiers being held hostage in exchange for more prisoners, officials said.

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, a ship carrying humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates-led World Central Kitchen (WCK) arrives off the coast of the Gaza Strip, Friday, March 15, 2024.  (AP via Israel Army)

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, a ship carrying humanitarian aid from the United Arab Emirates-led World Central Kitchen (WCK) arrives off the coast of the Gaza Strip, Friday, March 15, 2024. (AP via Israel Army)

In a third phase, Hamas would hand over the bodies in exchange for Israel lifting its blockade of Gaza and beginning reconstruction, officials said.

The talks are expected to resume on Sunday afternoon, although Egyptian officials said they could be pushed back to Monday.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the plan “unrealistic” but agreed to send Israeli negotiators to Qatar. His government has rejected calls for a permanent ceasefire, insisting it must first achieve its stated goal of “destroying Hamas”.

Thousands of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to express their impatience with Netanyahu's government and demand a deal to free the hostages. Some expressed support for US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's scathing criticism Netanyahu's handling of the war and his call for new elections.

“I think we're in a situation where they're absolutely right, we have a war that continues beyond what's necessary,” protester Yehuda Halber said.

Netanyahu's office said on Friday he approved military plans to attack Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, home to 1.4 million displaced Palestinians – more than half the enclave's population. Israel wants to target Hamas battalions stationed there.

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Many fled to Rafah when Israel attacked Gaza following an Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and left 250 hostages.

The US and other countries have warned that a military Surgery on Rafa can be disastrous.

Netanyahu's office did not provide details or a timetable for the Rafah operation, but said it would involve the evacuation of civilians. The army said it planned Direct the public to “humane islands”. In central Gaza.

“Many people are very fragile, hungry and sick,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on social media, adding that Gaza lacked fully functional, safe health centers that they could reach anywhere else. “In the name of humanity, we urge Israel not to proceed.”

At least 31,553 Palestinians have been killed in the war, according to Gaza's health ministry. ministry Does not differentiate Between civilians and militants in its numbers, but telling Women and children Two-thirds of the dead.

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, humanitarian aid from a ship from the United Arab Emirates-led World Central Kitchen (WCK) arrives in the waters off the Gaza Strip, Friday, March 15, 2024.  The Israeli military opened a sea route from Cyprus and a ship delivered 200 tons of food, water and humanitarian supplies to Gaza.  The sea route is meant to deliver more aid to ease the humanitarian crisis five months into the war between Israel and Hamas.  (Israeli Army via AP)

In this photo provided by the Israeli military, humanitarian aid from a ship belonging to the United Arab Emirates-led World Central Kitchen organization arrives in the waters off the Gaza Strip on March 15. (Israeli Army via AP)

An Israeli strike early Saturday leveled a house in the urban Nusirat refugee camp in central Gaza, killing at least 19 people, including nine children, according to records from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital. An Associated Press reporter who was there saw the bodies.

Israel's offensive has driven most of Gaza's 2.3 million people from their homes. A quarter of Gaza's population is starvingUN

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As part of efforts to provide much-needed aid, a ship was launched By sea from Cyprus On Friday and carried 200 tons of humanitarian supplies Sent by the aid group World Central Kitchen for people in northern Gaza.

The group said it was preparing another ship in Cyprus with hundreds of tons of aid.

On Saturday, Germany hosts a group of nations including the United States and Jordan Help drops On Gaza. The United States has also announced separately Plans to build a ship Get help.

Displaced Palestinians lived in tents along the Mediterranean coast, hungry and in the dark.

“The situation is so bad that no one can imagine it, the ship, even if it is helped, will be a drop in the ocean,” said Jar Sakr in Muwasi. “We run like dogs after airdrops.”

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Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Shlomo Mor in Tel Aviv and Jack Jeffery in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

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Find out more about AP's coverage https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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An earlier version of this story was corrected to show that the aid group's name was World Central Kitchen, not World Central.

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