May 22, 2024

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Hamas is sending a delegation to Egypt for further ceasefire talks in the latest sign of progress

Hamas is sending a delegation to Egypt for further ceasefire talks in the latest sign of progress

Beirut (AFP) – The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) announced Thursday that it will send a delegation to Egypt to participate in the talks More ceasefire talksIn a new sign of progress in the attempts of international mediators to reach an agreement between Israel and the armed group to end the conflict The war in Gaza.

After months of intermittent negotiations, ceasefire efforts appear to have succeeded I have reached a critical stageEgyptian and American mediators have reported signs of settlement in recent days. But the chances of a deal are still mixed Main question And whether Israel will accept an end to the war without achieving its stated goal of destroying Hamas.

The risks in ceasefire negotiations were laid out in a new UN report that said that if the war between Israel and Hamas stopped today, it would take until 2040 to rebuild all of the Palestinian territories. Houses that were destroyed Nearly seven months of Israeli bombing and ground attacks on Gaza. He warned of the effect Damage to the economy It will hinder development for generations and will get worse as the fighting continues every month.

The proposal put forward to Hamas by American and Egyptian mediators – apparently with Israeli acceptance – outlines a three-stage process that would lead to an immediate six-week ceasefire and partial release of Israeli hostages, but also negotiations on a “permanent ceasefire.” . “Calm” that includes some sort of Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, according to an Egyptian official. Hamas is seeking guarantees for a complete Israeli withdrawal and a complete end to the war.

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Hamas officials have sent mixed signals about the proposal in recent days. But on Thursday, its supreme guide, Ismail Haniyeh, said in a statement that he spoke with the head of Egyptian intelligence and “stressed the positive spirit of the movement in studying the ceasefire proposal.”

The statement said that Hamas negotiators will travel to Cairo “to complete the ongoing discussions with the aim of working to reach an agreement.” Haniyeh said he also spoke with the Prime Minister of Qatar, another key mediator in the process.

The mediators hope the deal will end the conflict that has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to local health officials, caused widespread destruction and plunged the Strip into a humanitarian crisis. They also hope that an agreement can be reached Preventing any Israeli attack on RafahMore than half of Gaza's population of 2.3 million have sought shelter after fleeing combat zones elsewhere in the Strip.

If Israel agreed to end the war in exchange for the full release of the hostages, it would be a major shift. Since the October 7 Hamas attack caught Israel by surprise, its leaders have vowed not to stop bombing and ground attacks until the militant group is destroyed. They also say Israel must maintain a military presence in Gaza and security control after the war to ensure Hamas does not rebuild.

Publicly at least, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu He continues to insist that this is the only acceptable endgame.

He vowed that even if a ceasefire was reached, Israel would eventually attack Rafah, which he says is Hamas's last stronghold in Gaza. He reiterated his determination to do so in talks on Wednesday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was in Israel on a regional tour to push the agreement forward.

The immediate fate of the agreement depends on whether Hamas will accept uncertainty over the final stages of achieving an initial six-week cessation of fighting – and at least postpone what is feared to be a devastating attack on Rafah.

Egypt has secretly assured Hamas that the deal would mean a complete end to the war. But the Egyptian official said that Hamas says the language of the text is too vague and wants it to specify a complete Israeli withdrawal from the entire Gaza Strip. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to talk about internal deliberations.

However, on Wednesday evening, the news appeared less positive, as Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, expressed doubts, saying the movement's initial position was “negative.” Speaking to Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV, he said the talks were still ongoing but would stop if Israel invaded Rafah.

Blinken intensified his pressure on Hamas to accept, saying that Israel had made “very important” concessions.

“There is no time for further bargaining. The agreement is there,” Blinken said on Wednesday before departing for the United States.

The war broke out between Israel and Hamas because… October 7 raid on southern Israel The militants killed about 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and kidnapped about 250 hostages. It is believed that Hamas is still standing About 100 hostages And the remains of more than 30 others.

Since then, the Israeli campaign in Gaza has wreaked widespread devastation and brought a humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in northern Gaza facing imminent famine, according to the United Nations, and more than 80% of the population having been displaced from their homes.

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“The productive basis of the economy has been destroyed” and poverty is rising sharply among Palestinians, according to the report released Thursday by the United Nations Development Program and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

She said that in 2024, the entire Palestinian economy – including both Gaza and the West Bank – has contracted by 25.8% so far. She added that if the war continued, the loss would reach a “staggering” 29% by July. The West Bank economy was harmed by Israel's decision to cancel work permits for tens of thousands of workers who depend on jobs inside Israel.

“These new figures warn that the suffering in Gaza will not end when the war ends,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. He warned of “a dangerous development crisis that puts the future of future generations at risk.”


Lee Keith reported from Cairo and Sam Mednick from Tel Aviv, Israel.