UK News

Cairo talks continue in an effort to reach a ceasefire in Gaza war

Egyptian officials reported progress in talks held in Cairo on Tuesday on a ceasefire in the Gaza war and a release of some of the 134 hostages now in Hamas captivity for 130 days. However, a breakthrough was still not seen as imminent.

Senior officials from the US, Israel, Egypt and Qatar met after Egypt reportedly warned Hamas that if there was no deal in the next few weeks Israel would invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than a million war refugees are holed up in temporary shelters.

UN secretary general António Guterres said he hoped talks on a pause in the Gaza war would be successful so an Israeli offensive in Rafah could be avoided, warning any such offensive would have “devastating consequences”.

Significant differences between the sides raised doubts a week ago over the chances of clinching a deal, with the main sticking point being the Hamas demand that an agreement include a permanent end to the fighting and a withdrawal of all Israeli troops from Gaza.

Now the sides are understood to be focusing on the first stage of a deal, which envisages a six-week humanitarian pause, during which women, children, elderly and ill hostages would be released in exchange for Palestinians in Israeli prisons. During this truce period, negotiations would continue over two further phases, which the mediators hope will lead to an end to the war.

More than 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza in the four-month-old war according to the Hamas-run health ministry. Israel says 1,200 people were killed in the surprise Hamas-led attack on October 7th and more than 250 kidnapped.

The United Nations humanitarian office said on Tuesday it had not received any communication from Israel of a plan to evacuate residents from the Rafah area and stressed it would not participate in any forced evacuation.

South Africa made an urgent request to the International Court of Justice to consider whether Israel’s threat to extend its military operations to Rafah required that the court use its power to prevent further breach of the rights of Palestinians in Gaza.

The two hostages rescued from Rafah in a commando raid on Monday expressed their profound gratitude to the special forces who freed them, in a recorded message on Tuesday from the Tel Aviv area hospital where they are being treated.

They told relatives that they did not receive the medicine that was sent to Gaza specifically for them and the other hostages a few weeks ago under a deal brokered by the Red Cross, and they were surprised to hear of such an arrangement.

Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said on Tuesday that his faction’s cross-border shelling into Israel would end only when Israel’s “aggression” on the Gaza Strip stopped, warning that if Israel escalated its operation, two million Israelis would be sent to bomb shelters.

Despite his warning, contacts are ongoing in an effort to restore peace to Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.

France has submitted to Lebanon a three-stage proposal that would secure a ceasefire and resolve Lebanon’s border disputes with Israel.

According to the proposal, the Iran-backed Hizbullah is to withdraw to approximately 10km from the Israeli border, and all of its military positions and facilities in that territory are to be dismantled. Roughly 15,000 Lebanese army troops are to be deployed in that area simultaneously.

An Israeli mother and her son were both seriously wounded on Tuesday when a Hizbullah rocket hit the northern city of Kiryat Shmona. Israeli jets and artillery hit Hizbullah targets in response.


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