Hamas chief Haniyeh discusses Gaza truce talks with Egypt, Qatar officials

Hamas says it is studying proposal ‘in positive spirit’ as delegation reportedly set to visit Cairo for further talks.

A Palestinian man looks at a ravaged neighbourhood from a destroyed apartment in Khan Younis in southern Gaza [AFP]

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh has discussed the latest Israeli proposal for a truce in Gaza and an exchange of captives for prisoners with Egyptian and Qatari mediators.

Haniyeh held separate phone calls with Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani on Thursday.

A statement by the Palestinian group said a delegation is set to visit Egypt soon for further indirect ceasefire talks with the objective of “ending the aggression against” people in the besieged and bombarded enclave.

Haniyeh told Kamel he “appreciated the role played by Egypt”, which along with Qatar and the United States, is mediating the talks, and “stressed the positive spirit of the movement in studying the ceasefire proposal”, according to a statement on Hamas’s official website.

A separate statement by Hamas on Thursday said that Haniyeh and Qatar’s prime minister agreed to continue the discussions to “mature a deal” through Qatari and Egyptian mediation.

Hamas said on Saturday that it had received Israel’s latest position and would study it before submitting a reply.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, while visiting Israel on Wednesday, urged Hamas to accept the truce plan.

“Hamas needs to say yes and needs to get this done,” Blinken said, insisting that “if Hamas actually purports to care about the Palestinian people and wants to see an immediate alleviation of their suffering, it should take this deal.”

Major sticking points

There have been significant sticking points in negotiations. Hamas has repeatedly said it would not accept a deal that does not guarantee a permanent ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, and the unhindered return of displaced families to their homes.

The Israeli proposal includes a halt in fighting for 40 days and the exchange of dozens of Israeli captives for many more Palestinian prisoners, according to British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who described the offer as “generous”.

Egyptian state-linked media Al-Qahera News reported Thursday that “a delegation from Hamas will arrive in Cairo within the next two days to continue truce negotiations”, citing a high-level Egyptian source.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, a Palestinian official close to the mediation also said the Hamas delegation’s visit could take place in the next two days.

Egypt recently renewed its bid to push stalled negotiations on a ceasefire in Gaza and end Israel’s ongoing assault there, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to send in ground troops to the southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

At least 34,596 Palestinians have been killed and 77,643 others wounded in the Israeli assault on Gaza since October, according to authorities in the territory. The Israeli assault on Gaza began after Hamas fighters led an attack on southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,139 people, according to an Al Jazeera tally based on Israeli statistics.

Israel’s assault on Gaza has driven more than 80 percent of the territory’s population of 2.3 million from their homes, caused vast destruction in most towns and cities, and pushed northern Gaza to the brink of famine.

Dozens of captives were released by Palestinian groups in Gaza in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails during a previous weeklong truce in late November.

Israeli forces have since arrested thousands more Palestinians in a sweeping crackdown in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as in Gaza.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies