‘Progress’ in Gaza truce talks but Israel still set on Rafah ground attack | Israel War on Gaza News

A delegation from the Palestinian group Hamas is in the Egyptian capital for truce and captive-release negotiations, with sources saying that some progress has been made.

However, sticking points remain, including Israel’s insistence on launching a ground invasion into Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah.

The Hamas team arrived in Cairo on Saturday to meet mediators from Qatar, Egypt and the United States regarding a proposal that would halt Israel’s war on Gaza for 40 days and exchange captives for Palestinian prisoners, according to details released by the United Kingdom.

Sources told Al Jazeera that negotiations are at a critical point as a Qatari technical team is working out the details of a potential deal with the Egyptians.

“Usually technical teams are indications that we are moving to the operational aspect of an agreement. There are phases in this agreement, and they will try to pin down the details of those phases,” said Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Doha.

Osama Hamdan, a senior spokesman for Hamas, told Al Jazeera, “It’s clear that we are moving forward. There are some good points.

“But till now, we are still talking about the main issue, which is the complete ceasefire and complete withdrawal from Gaza. We hope to find some good and positive answers today.”

Hamdan said one of the “key elements” discussed was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aim of sending the army into Rafah.

For its part, Israel has repeatedly said that regardless of a potential deal with Hamas, it will proceed with its invasion of Rafah. United Nations agencies and aid groups have long warned that a ground operation would result in a catastrophe for the more than 1.5 million people sheltered there.

“Unfortunately, there was a clear statement from Netanyahu saying that regardless to what may happen, if there was a ceasefire or not, he will continue the attack,” Hamdan said. “That means there will be no ceasefire, and that means that the attack will be continued, which is against what we are discussing.

“At least we want to know exactly what does it mean, his statement, and the reaction from the mediators. Our understanding that any achievement for a ceasefire means that there will be no more attacks against Gaza and Rafah,” he added.

The negotiations, Al Jazeera’s Ahelbarra said, have been focused on convincing Hamas that they have to stay away from demanding a permanent ceasefire from Israel in the first phase of the agreement as this is unlikely to happen.

‘Behave calmly’

More than 240 people were taken captive on October 7 when Hamas fighters launched an attack into southern Israel killing more than 1,100 people.

Israel then launched its war on Gaza that has killed more than 34,600 Palestinians, reduced to rubble more than 70 percent of the Palestinian territory and pushed pockets of the population into famine.

A first round of negotiations between Israel and Hamas in November led to the release of about 100 captives in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails. But since then talks have largely stalled.

In the past weeks, mediators renewed efforts for a deal. They are now waiting for Hamas to respond to the proposal.

Despite the talk of “progress” in the negotiations on Saturday, Israeli cabinet minister Benny Gantz urged caution over such reports.

“An answer to the outline of the deal has not yet been received. When it is received, the war cabinet will convene and discuss it,” Gantz said in a statement.

“Until then, I suggest to all ‘political elements’ and all decision-makers to wait for official updates, behave calmly, and not go into hysteria for political reasons,” he added.

In his comments to Al Jazeera, Hamas’s Hamdan meanwhile said the war could end immediately if the US decided it should.

“We have to talk about the real position of the United States because that is the main issue which will affect the position of the Israelis, and mainly Netanyahu,” he said.

“If the United States administration has said clearly to Netanyahu, enough is enough … I assure you that will happen.”

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