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Gaza truce talks in Cairo as heavy fighting rages

The Israeli military said it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. (File/AFP)
The Israeli military said it intensified operations in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis. (File/AFP)
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04 Mar 2024 04:03:49 GMT9
04 Mar 2024 04:03:49 GMT9
  • Israel boycotts talks, intensifies operations in Khan Younis
  • Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Riyadh calls for ceasefire
  • US envoy Amos Hochstein to visit Beirut

Arab News

RIYADH: Mediators in Cairo made a renewed push for a Gaza ceasefire, but differences remained as fighting raged on in the Palestinian territory gripped by desperate food shortages.

US, Qatari and Hamas envoys travelled to Cairo for the latest effort toward a six-week truce, stepped-up aid deliveries and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Their goal has been to secure a truce by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on March 10 or 11.

But sticking points remained, including a Hamas demand that the Israeli armed forces entirely withdraw from the Gaza Strip after almost five months of devastating war.


Israel boycotted the ceasefire talks in Cairo after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for the talks, billed as a possible final hurdle before an agreement that would halt the fighting for six weeks. But by early evening there was no sign of the Israelis.

“There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo,” Ynet, the online version of Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying.

A Hamas source on Sunday told AFP its delegation to Cairo is being led by senior leader Khalil Al-Haya.

“The delegation will meet Egyptian mediators and deliver the group’s response to the new Paris proposal,” the source said, in reference to negotiations held last month in the French capital with Israel’s presence.

In Riyadh, Arab foreign ministers on Friday stressed the importance of achieving an immediate ceasefire and ensuring the security of relief corridors for the delivery of humanitarian, food and medical aid.

The 159th regular session of the Foreign Ministerial Council was held at the GCC headquarters of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Joint ministerial meetings between the GCC countries and Egypt, Morocco, and Jordan were held to further strengthen cooperation and discuss urgent matters related to besieged Gaza.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan participated in the meetings, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed Al-Thani, Qatar’s prime minister and minister of foreign affairs.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that what was happening in Gaza is part of a systematic plan to annihilate Palestine, adding that “security solutions to the conflict have brought nothing but destruction to the region, and the escalation in Gaza (has) extended to the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab.”

Pope Francis called for Gaza civilians to be given “safe access to the humanitarian aid they urgently need,” telling the faithful at the Vatican that he supports an “immediate ceasefire” and hostage release.

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and should be in place in time to halt fighting by the start of Ramadan.

But the warring sides have given little sign in public of backing away from previous demands.

After the Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo, a Palestinian official said the deal was “not yet there.” From the Israeli side, there was no official comment.

Also on Sunday, a senior Lebanese official said US envoy Amos Hochstein was due to visit Beirut on Monday to continue diplomatic efforts aimed at de-escalating the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border and bringing stability,

Lebanon’s deputy parliament speaker Elias Bou Saab, one of the officials due to meet Hochstein, said he believed the timing of his visit pointed to progress in efforts to secure a Gaza truce “within the next few hours or days.”

The war began on October 7 with an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

Gaza militants also abducted 250 hostages, of whom 130 remain in captivity according to Israel, a figure that includes 31 presumed dead.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive on the besieged Palestinian territory has killed 30,410 people, mostly women and children, the Gaza health ministry reported Sunday.

(With AFP)

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