Hamas officials return to Cairo in renewed ceasefire bid
A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo on Thursday for renewed negotiations with Egyptian and Qatari officials for a ceasefire, after the Palestinian faction and Israel disagreed over details in the proposal.
Led by Hamas deputy head Khalil al-Hayaa, the delegation is meeting officials from the Egyptian intelligence service and other Palestinian factions for several days of talks which will include discussions on a 'post-war' Gaza, The New Arab’s sister paper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported.
Egyptian officials said that the renewed negotiations could take up to ten days as the original ‘Paris deal’ hatched by the US, Egyptian and Qatari officials nearly two weeks ago was not accepted in whole by Israel or Hamas.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is due to hold a meeting with his war cabinet on Thursday to discuss Hamas’s amendments. The meeting follows US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s whistle stop tour to Tel Aviv and other regional capitals.
Israeli media reported on Thursday that Israel would not deliver its response to Hamas before Thursday evening.
Hamas has maintained it is open to a deal that would include, according to a draft seen by Al Jazeera, a three-stage halt in fighting, with each phase lasting 45 days and including the exchange of Palestinian women and children imprisoned in Israel for hostages in Gaza.
The Palestinian group also demanded an end to Israel’s siege on the strip and the beginning reconstruction of civilian buildings.
Hamas has maintained that an outright end to the war, including the withdrawal of Israeli forces, must be finalised prior to the start of the second phase.
On Tuesday, Hamas delivered its altered proposal to mediators in Qatar and Egypt, but by Wednesday evening Israel had publicly rejected the deal, despite American and Qatari optimism that the two parties would come to an agreement.
Netanyahu, whose stated objective is the dismantling of Hamas, strongly rebuffed the group's terms, labelling them as "bizarre" at a press conference on Wednesday.
"There is no other solution but a complete and final victory," Netanyahu said. "If Hamas will survive in Gaza, it's only a question of time until the next massacre."
Saudi Arabia rejects normalisation with Israel amid Gaza war following claims from Biden admin ⬇️https://t.co/eismu66Ezb— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) February 8, 2024
The premier said that Israel would expand its offensive south to Rafah, where over a million displaced Palestinians have sought safety following Israeli military orders to seek refuge in the city.
Meanwhile, AFP agency reported that Blinken held meetings with Israeli politicians Benny Gantz and Gadi Eisenkot on Thursday in a bid to advance a deal to release the hostages. He also met with families of the hostages who have been pressing Netanyahu to ensure their relatives' safe return.
Israeli officials believe that there are 136 hostages held in Gaza, including men, women and the elderly, though at least 29 of them are thought to be dead. Hamas accuses Israel of killing several of the hostages in airstrikes on Gaza.
There are at least 8,800 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, many on trumped up charges or held without trial.
Over 27,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s latest war on the strip began, after Hamas’s unprecedented attack which resulted in around 1,200 killed.