Gaza talks stall

With Ramadan merely days away, no breakthroughs have been made in days of negotiations.

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March 5, 2024 - 1:27 PM

Palestinians line up for food in Rafah, Gaza Strip, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023, during a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Photo by (AP Photo/Hatem Ali)

CAIRO (AP) — Three days of negotiations with Hamas over a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of Israeli hostages ended Tuesday without a breakthrough, Egyptian officials said, less than a week before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the informal deadline for a deal.

The United States, Qatar and Egypt have spent weeks trying to broker an agreement in which Hamas would release up to 40 hostages in return for a monthlong cease-fire, the release of some Palestinian prisoners and an influx of aid to address the humanitarian catastrophe in the isolated territory.

Two Egyptian officials said the latest round of discussions had ended. They said Hamas presented a proposal that mediators would discuss with Israel in the coming days.

Hamas has refused to release all of the estimated 100 hostages it holds, and the remains of around 30 more, unless Israel ends its offensive, withdraws from the territory and releases a large number of Palestinian prisoners, including senior militants serving life sentences.

Jihad Taha, a Hamas spokesperson, said the negotiations were ongoing but “the ball is in the Israeli court.” He said Israel had thus far refused Hamas’ demands for people who fled northern Gaza to be allowed to return and for guarantees of a cease-fire and full withdrawal.

“Hamas is open to proposals and initiatives that are consistent with its position calling for a cease-fire, withdrawal, the return of the displaced, the entry of relief convoys and reconstruction,” Taha said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly rejected Hamas’ demands and repeatedly vowed to continue the war until Hamas is dismantled and all the hostages are returned. Israel did not send a delegation to the latest round of talks.

Gaza’s Health Ministry said 97 people had been killed over the last 24 hours, bringing the overall Palestinian death toll to 30,631.

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