Hamas arrives in Egypt for ceasefire talks with deal ‘on the table’, no confirmation from Israeli side: Report

Israel Hamas war
Image Source : AP Israel-Hamas war

Cairo: A delegation from Hamas arrived in Cairo on Sunday for crunch talks on a Gaza ceasefire, billed as a potential final hurdle towards an agreement that would halt the fighting for six weeks. Washington said a ceasefire deal was already “on the table”, approved by Israel and awaiting only a sign-off from the militants. But the warring sides gave away little information on the state of any progress.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there”.

Are Israeli officials attending the meeting?

From the Israeli side, there was no official confirmation even that its delegation was attending. One source briefed on the talks had said Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented a full list of hostages who are still alive, a demand that a Palestinian source said Hamas had so far rejected as premature.

Still, a US official told reporters: “The path to a ceasefire right now literally at this hour is straightforward. And there’s a deal on the table. There’s a framework deal.” An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November. Dozens of hostages held by the militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.

Aid to besieged Gaza would be ramped up to save the lives of Palestinians pushed to the verge of famine. Fighting would cease in time to head off a massive planned Israeli assault on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are penned in against the enclave’s border fence. Israeli forces would pull back from some areas and allow Gazans to return to homes abandoned earlier in the war.

What Hamas say

But a deal would stop short of fulfilling the main Hamas demand for a permanent end to the war, while also leaving unresolved the fate of more than half of the more than 100 remaining hostages – including Israeli men of fighting age not covered by a deal to free women, children, elderly and wounded.

Egyptian mediators have suggested those issues could be set aside for now with assurances they would be resolved in later stages. A Hamas source told Reuters the militants were still holding out for a “package deal”.

US President Joe Biden said last week that a deal could be reached as soon as Monday, although Washington has since rowed back from such a firm timetable. The aim is to have it in place in time to halt the fighting for the Ramadan Muslim fasting month, which begins in a week.

Rafah airstrike

The final days leading up to the anticipated truce have been exceptionally bloody, with talks overshadowed by the deaths of 118 people near a food convoy where Israeli forces opened fire. Hamas called it a massacre; Israel says most of those killed were trampled in a stampede.

In the latest reported attack on aid, Gaza authorities said at least eight people were killed on Sunday when a truck carrying food aid from a Kuwaiti charity was hit by an air strike. There was no immediate Israeli comment.

The war was unleashed in October after Hamas fighters stormed through Israeli towns killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza health authorities, with thousands more dead feared unrecovered under rubble.

(With inputs from agency)

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