Sunday, May 19, 2024

“Significant progress” in Gaza ceasefire negotiations: Senior Egyptian official

Negotiations in Cairo between Israel and Hamas to reach a ceasefire and hostage deal have achieved "significant progress" and consensus on many controversial points, according to Egyptian state outlet Al Qahera News, citing a senior Egyptian official.

The official confirmed the “continuation of efforts to reach a truce agreement” in Gaza, according to the state outlet.

“The round of negotiations in Cairo is witnessing great progress in bringing points of view closer together,” Al Qahera cited the source as saying, adding that there had been an agreement on “basic axes between all parties”.

The source stated the Qatari and Hamas delegations would leave Cairo and return within two days to agree to the final terms of the agreement.

The US and Israeli delegations would leave within hours, though consultations would continue over the next 48 hours, the source told Al Qahera.

Hamas announced Sunday it would like to see a “complete cessation of aggression”. The Palestinian group also reiterated its demands, including a withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes, reconstruction of the damage in Gaza from Israel’s military, and a “completion of a prisoner exchange deal” involving a mutual release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Israel has repeatedly called Hamas’ demands “delusional”.

Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, after the fighters attacked the occupied territories, killing some 1,200 people and taking more than 250 hostages. Dozens of captives were subsequently freed as part of a series of swaps during the weeklong truce in November. Around 130 hostages are still held in Gaza, according to Israeli officials.

More than 33,000 Palestinians have been killed during Israel’s operation in Gaza since October 7, according to local authorities.

Conflicting reports continue to emerge on what happened during negotiations in Egypt between Israeli officials and the Hamas delegation.

An unnamed Palestinian official told the Lebanese Al Mayadeen news network “all attempts and efforts by mediators to reach an agreement have encountered Israeli inflexibility”.

“At present, there is no progress in negotiations. If there is any, we will announce it through official channels. Hamas adheres to its demands, which include a ceasefire, Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the entry of aid, the return of displaced Gazans, and a prisoner exchange.”

Hamas negotiators left Cairo to consult the group’s leaders but no progress was made in talks on Sunday, a senior Hamas source tells Al Jazeera.

The Israeli delegation failed to respond to any Hamas demands, the source said.

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