Hamas delegates to visit Cairo for Gaza ceasefire talks

Nidal al-Mughrabi |

Local health authorities say Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians.
Local health authorities say Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians.

A Hamas delegation is set to visit Cairo for talks aimed at securing a ceasefire, a Hamas official has told Reuters, as mediators step up efforts to reach a deal ahead of an Israeli assault on the southern city of Rafah.

The official, who asked not to be named, said on Sunday the delegation would visit Cairo on Monday to discuss a ceasefire proposal handed by Hamas to mediators Qatar and Egypt, as well as Israel’s response.

He did not disclose details of the latest proposals.

Local health authorities say Israel’s offensive in Gaza has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians. (EPA PHOTO)

The war, now in its seventh month, was triggered by an attack by Hamas militants on Israel on October 7, killing 1200 and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel has vowed to eradicate Hamas, which controls Gaza, in a military operation that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, 66 of them in the past 24 hours, according to Gaza’s health authorities. 

The war has displaced most of the 2.3 million population and laid much of the densely populated enclave to waste.

On Friday, senior Hamas official Khalil Al-Hayya said the group had received Israel’s response to its ceasefire proposal and was studying it before handing its response to Egyptian and Qatari mediators. 

Prior rounds of talks have failed to bridge the gaps in the two sides’ positions. 

Hamas wants an accord for a permanent end to the war and for Israel to pull its forces out of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is studying Israel’s response to its ceasefire proposal, top official Khalil al-Hayya says. (AP PHOTO)

Israel has only offered a temporary ceasefire to free about 130 hostages remaining in captivity and to allow the delivery of more humanitarian aid. 

It has said it won’t end its operations until it has achieved its aim of destroying Hamas.

Israel’s foreign minister said on Saturday that a planned incursion into Rafah, where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering, could be suspended should a deal emerge to release the Israeli hostages.

Hardline nationalist Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich on Sunday urged Netanyahu not to back down from an assault on Rafah and said that agreeing to Egypt’s proposals would constitute a humiliating defeat.

Without eradicating Hamas, Smotrich said in a video statement that he released to the press and addressed to Netanyahu, “a government headed by you will have no right to exist”.

Bezalel Smotrich and Benjamin Netanyahu
Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has urged Benjamin Netanyahu to proceed with an assault on Rafah. (AP PHOTO)

Asked whether Smotrich, who is not a member of Netanyahu’s war cabinet, had the details of any Egyptian proposal, his spokesman did not immediately comment.

Western countries, including Israel’s closest ally the United States, have urged Israel to refrain from attacking the border city on concern over potential civilian casualties.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh on Sunday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said only the US could stop Israel from attacking Rafah.

He said he expected an attack on Rafah in coming days, saying even a “small strike” on Rafah would force the Palestinian population to flee the Gaza strip.

“The biggest catastrophe in the Palestinian people’s history would then happen.”