Home News Middle East crisis: Israeli military warns thousands to evacuate Rafah

Middle East crisis: Israeli military warns thousands to evacuate Rafah


The latest round of talks between Israel and Hamas stalled on Sunday as mediators worked to bridge remaining differences and the Hamas delegation left, according to two senior Hamas officials and two others familiar with the negotiations. negotiated in Cairo. An Israeli official also confirmed that the negotiations had reached an impasse and called the negotiations in a “crisis.”

For months, talks aimed at a ceasefire and the release of hostages have made little progress, but last week there were signs the two sides were getting closer to a deal. Israel has dropped some of its long-held demands, and a senior Hamas official said the group was studying Israel’s latest proposals in a “positive spirit.”

But the weekend’s setback means there will be no immediate reprieve for Palestinians living in miserable conditions in Gaza, and families of hostages held by militants will have to wait longer for the freedom of their loved ones.

The main obstacle to negotiations is the duration of the ceasefire, with Hamas demanding a permanent ceasefire and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying he is open to a temporary cessation of fighting.

Hamas blames the lack of progress on Netanyahu, who has vowed again in recent days that Israeli forces will invade Rafah, the southernmost town in the Gaza Strip, with or without a deal.

“We were very close, but Netanyahu’s narrow-mindedness caused the agreement to abort,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, said in a telephone interview.

Netanyahu has for weeks declared his intention to launch a ground offensive against Rafah, where about a million Palestinians have been taking refuge. The Biden administration has been urging Israel not to launch major operations in the city.

Sunday, Hamas Approximately 10 rockets were fired from the Rafah crossing areaAccording to the Israeli military, three soldiers were killed near the Kerem Shalom crossing. Rocket attacks by Hamas have been relatively rare in recent months, and Israel said it had responded with airstrikes on launch sites.

An Israeli official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Israel and Hamas were closer to a deal days ago, but Netanyahu’s comments about Rafah forced Hamas to tighten its demands to ensure Israeli forces won’t be allowed to advance. city. Hamas is now seeking further assurances that Israel will not implement only part of the deal and then resume fighting, the official said.

The official lamented that Hamas and Israel had turned to playing a “blame game.”

Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, dismissed suggestions that talks were at an impasse, suggesting that the parties were still reviewing the details of the latest proposal.

Netanyahu and the United States have long believed that Hamas was stalling a deal. On Sunday, Netanyahu said he would not agree to a complete withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza and an end to the war. Supporting such demands would allow Hamas to regain control of Gaza, rebuild military capabilities and threaten communities across Israel, he said.

“It is Hamas that is preventing the release of our hostages,” he said. “We are doing everything possible to try to free the hostages; this is our top priority.”

The Israeli delegation never traveled to Cairo for the latest round of talks. The Israeli official said Israel sought a written response from Hamas to its latest proposal before sending the delegation, but the group never relayed a written response.

Abu Marzouk said Hamas wanted Israel to attend talks in Cairo and they could have used mediators to clarify “vague” points in Israel’s latest proposal, including the duration of the ceasefire.

“The ceasefire must be permanent and fixed,” he said.

Abu Marzouk was the only official allowed to use his first name when discussing the talks. Others requested anonymity discussing sensitive topics or because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Abu Marzouk said Hamas believed Netanyahu wanted a deal that would allow Israel to invade Rafah after the hostages were released.

“This is Netanyahu’s plan,” he said.

A technical team from Qatar’s foreign ministry also left the Egyptian capital on Sunday, two officials briefed on the talks said. CIA Director Bill Burns met with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Doha on Sunday to discuss getting talks back on track, one of the officials said.

Hamas’s political leadership will meet in Doha on Monday to discuss what happened in Cairo over the past two days, but the group intends to continue participating in negotiations with a “positive attitude,” a senior Hamas official said. anonymous.

Egypt’s state-owned TV channel Al-Qahera News reported that a Hamas delegation would return to Cairo on Tuesday, but senior Hamas officials said the group had not yet made a decision.

Peter Baker and Michael Crowley provided reporting for this article.

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