Saturday, April 20, 2024

Hamas officials arrive in Egypt for truce talks, no sign of Israel

Hamas officials have arrived in Egypt's capital Cairo for talks on securing a truce in the Gaza war after a US official indicated that Tel Aviv had endorsed a framework for a temporary ceasefire and exchange of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners.

Hamas representatives arrived in Cairo on Sunday, but by evening there was no delegation from Israel for the talks mediated by envoys from Qatar, Egypt and the United States, with Israeli media reporting that Israel had not sent a team after the Palestinian group declined to share a list of captives who were still alive in the besieged territory.

“There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo,” Israeli outlet Ynet quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying.

“Hamas refuses to provide clear answers and therefore there is no reason to dispatch the Israeli delegation.”

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

A senior Hamas official told Al Jazeera that its delegation was in Cairo “to meet with the Egyptian and Qatari brothers and to present the movement’s vision. Whether or not the occupation delegation arrives in Cairo does not concern us,” he said.

One source briefed on the talks told the Reuters news agency a day earlier that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented the list of captives.

A Palestinian source told the agency that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

A US official had earlier stated Israel had agreed to the framework for a truce deal up for discussion in Cairo.

“There’s a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it,” a senior US official in the administration of President Joe Biden said on Saturday.

The framework proposal includes a six-week ceasefire, as well as the release by Hamas of captives considered vulnerable, which includes the sick, the wounded, the elderly and women, the US official added.

Israel and Hamas have made several demands amid growing pressure from the US to close a deal for a truce to come into effect before the start of Ramadan, expected around March 10 or 11.

The framework cited by the US official could bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged since October 7 with just a week-long pause in November. But it would stop short of fulfilling the main Hamas demand for a permanent end to the war.

A potential truce deal would also see the release of captives held by Hamas in return for the release of Palestinian detainees. An agreement could also see aid deliveries ramped up at a time when aid agencies have warned that many Palestinians in Gaza are on the verge of famine.

The war began on October 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, killing 1,139 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli officials. Israel responded with a devastating bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza that has killed more than 30,400 people, according to Palestinian officials. The Israeli assault has levelled large parts of the besieged territory and displaced more than 80 percent of the population.

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