Hamas says delegation heading to Cairo for truce talks

Hamas says delegation heading to Cairo for truce talks
A Hamas delegation is set to visit the Egyptian capital on Saturday to resume ceasefire talks, an official from the Palestinian group said.
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Israeli airstrikes continued to kill more people in Rafah, which Netanyahu is threatening to storm [Getty]

Hamas said its delegation will travel to Cairo on Saturday to resume Gaza ceasefire talks with a "positive spirit" in the latest effort to halt almost seven months of war with Israel.

Foreign mediators have been waiting for a Hamas response to a proposal to halt the fighting for 40 days and exchange hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

"We emphasise the positive spirit with which the Hamas leadership dealt with the ceasefire proposal it recently received, and we are going to Cairo in the same spirit to reach an agreement," the Palestinian group posted on its website on Friday.

"We in Hamas and the Palestinian resistance forces are determined to achieve an agreement that fulfils our people's demands for a complete cessation of the aggression, the withdrawal of the occupation forces, the return of the displaced, relief and reconstruction, and a serious exchange deal," the statement said.

A major stumbling block has been that, while Hamas has demanded a lasting ceasefire, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to crush its remaining fighters in the far-southern city of Rafah, which is packed with civilians displaced by Israel's bombardment.

The hawkish prime minister has insisted he will send ground troops into Rafah, despite strong concerns voiced by UN agencies and ally Washington for the safety of the 1.2 million civilians inside the city.

A top Hamas official accused Netanyahu on Friday of trying to derail a proposed Gaza truce and hostage release deal with his threats to keep fighting the group.

"Netanyahu was the obstructionist of all previous rounds of dialogue... and it is clear that he still is," senior Hamas official Hossam Badran told AFP by telephone.

Israel's unprecedented air and ground offensive since October 7 has killed more than 34,000 people so far, mostly civilians.


'Broken health system'

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency was "deeply concerned that a full-scale military operation in Rafah... could lead to a bloodbath".

"The broken health system would not be able to cope with a surge in casualties and deaths that a Rafah incursion would cause," an agency statement said.

Badran charged that Netanyahu's insistence on attacking Rafah was calculated to "thwart any possibility of concluding an agreement" in the negotiations brokered by Egyptian, Qatari and US mediators.

Israeli airstrikes killed several more people in Rafah overnight, Palestinian medics and the civil defence agency said.

One bereaved resident, Sanaa Zoorob, said her sister and six of her nieces and nephews were killed.

Two of the children "were found in pieces in their mother's embrace", Zoorob said, appealing for "a permanent ceasefire and a full withdrawal from Gaza".


Wave of campus protests

Pro-Palestinian protests that have rocked US campuses for weeks were more muted Friday after a series of clashes with police, mass arrests and a stern White House directive to restore order.

But similar demonstrations have spread to campuses in Britain, France, Mexico, Australia and elsewhere.

Turkey announced on Thursday that it was suspending all trade with Israel, valued by the government at $9.5 billion a year.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the move was intended to "force Israel to agree to a ceasefire and increase the amount of humanitarian aid to enter" Gaza.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who have carried out months of attacks on merchant shipping in the Red Sea in a costly blow to maritime trade, said they would extend their attacks on Israel-bound shipping to the Mediterranean "immediately".


Famine threat remains

Israel's siege has pushed many of Gaza's 2.4 million people to the brink of famine.

US pressure has prompted Israel to facilitate more aid deliveries to Gaza, including through the reopened Erez crossing that leads directly into the hardest-hit north.

Food availability has improved "a little bit", said the WHO's representative in the Palestinian territories, Rik Peeperkorn.

But he warned that the threat of famine had "absolutely not" gone away.

Five Israeli human rights groups that took Israel to court over restrictions on aid to Gaza said the state's insistence that it has met its obligations was "incomprehensible".

The government had told the supreme court that the steps it had taken went "above and beyond" its obligations under international law.

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Gisha and four other Israeli non-profit organisations retorted that the shortages evident inside Gaza indicated "the respondents are not meeting their obligations, not to the required extent nor at the necessary speed".

The US-based charity World Central Kitchen resumed operations this week, after suspending them in the aftermath of Israeli drone strikes that killed seven of its staff as they unloaded aid in Gaza on April 1.

World Central Kitchen was involved in an effort earlier this year to establish a new maritime aid corridor to Gaza from Cyprus to help compensate for dwindling deliveries by land from Israel.

The project suffered a new blow Friday when the US military announced high winds had forced troops working to assemble a temporary aid pier off the Gaza coast to relocate to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

Several Arab and Western governments have also airdropped aid into northern Gaza. Civil defence spokesman Mahmud Basal said one person was killed and several injured when they were hit by falling pallets.