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Packages fall towards northern Gaza, after being dropped from a military aircraft, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in southern Israel March 7, 2024. Image Credit: REUTERS

Washington: Negotiations over a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of more Israeli hostages will resume next week, Hamas said on Thursday, after a delegation of the Palestinian militant group left Cairo.

The announcement dimmed hopes that mediators could broker a truce before the start of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin at sundown on Sunday. Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations reached an impasse over Hamas’ demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war.

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However, US ambassador to Israel said Thursday talks for a truce have not yet “broken down”.

“The differences are being narrowed. It’s not yet an agreement. Everyone’s looking towards Ramadan, which is coming close. I can’t tell you that it will be successful, but it is not yet the case that it is broken down,” Jack Lew said at a conference in Tel Aviv.

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Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday. Israel will push on with its offensive against Hamas despite growing international pressure, including into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, “There is international pressure and it’s growing, but particularly when the international pressure rises, we must close ranks, we need to stand together against the attempts to stop the war,” he said.

The military would operate against Hamas all through the Gaza Strip, he said, “including Rafah, the last Hamas stronghold.” “Whoever tells us not to act in Rafah is telling us to lose the war and that will not happen.” After nearly five months of war, much of Gaza is in ruins, and international pressure is growing for Israel and Hamas to reach a deal that would halt the fighting and release the remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar have been trying to broker an agreement that would stop the fighting for six weeks, and include the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

The Egyptian officials said that Hamas has accepted the proposal as a first stage, but wants commitments that it will eventually lead to a more permanent cease-fire . Israel has publicly ruled out that demand, saying it intends to resume the offensive after any ceasefire with the goal of destroying Hamas.


After four days of talks mediated by Qatar and Egypt to secure a 40-day ceasefire ahead of the Muslim fasting month there has been no sign of progress on key sticking points, with both sides blaming the other.

“Hamas’s delegation left Cairo this morning for consultation with the leadership of the movement, with negotiations and efforts continuing to stop the aggression, return the displaced and bring in relief aid to our people,” a Hamas statement said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel had been “thwarting” efforts to conclude a ceasefire deal.

Abu Zuhri told Reuters that Israel was rejecting Hamas’s demands to end its offensive in the enclave, withdraw its forces, and ensure freedom of entry for aid and the return of displaced people.

“Needless to say, Israel will do whatever it takes to release our hostages. We’ve made very, very clear and this has been reiterated by the US that, unfortunately, it is Hamas who is the stumbling block right now by not telling us who is alive and who they have in their custody,” Israeli government spokesman David Mencer said on Thursday.

US President Joe Biden said earlier this week that a deal for a ceasefire was in the hands of Hamas.

The deal presented to Hamas for Gaza would free some of the hostages it still holds following the Oct. 7 attack, in which Israel said 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted.

Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would also be released.


Hamas officials have said they want a ceasefire to be in place before the hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled.

Hamas has said it can’t provide a list of the hostages who are still alive without a ceasefire as the hostages are scattered across the war zone.

News that the Hamas delegation had left Cairo without an accord was met with despair in Gaza, which is in the grip of a deep humanitarian crisis after five months of war.

“I feel great disappointment and despair, fear too,” said Abir, who along with her 12-member family has taken refuge in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million people are now sheltering.

“America must apply pressure for an end to the war or a long-term truce and allow in lots of aid to all residents,” Abir told Reuters via a chat app.

Despite earlier comments that negotiations were at an impasse, the US said on Wednesday that a truce accord was still possible and it would continue to push for one.

Health officials in Gaza said the number of people confirmed killed in Israel’s offensive had now passed 30,800. It reported 83 deaths in the past 24 hours and witnesses said the Israeli bombardments continued in Khan Younis, the southern city of Rafah, and areas in central Gaza.

They said Israel on Thursday had returned 47 bodies of Palestinians it had killed earlier during the military offensive, through its crossing with the enclave in the southern Gaza Strip, before they were buried.

In a later statement, Hamas reiterated a call for Palestinians in the West Bank, Jerusalem and inside Israel to step up visits to the Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan to increase pressure on Israel to “agree to demands for a ceasefire”.

Negotiators had been pushing for an accord ahead of Ramadan in part because of concern that the mosque complex in Jerusalem, the third holiest shrine in Islam, might become a flashpoint for violence during the fasting month.

Israel has said it will allow a similar level of access to the site as in previous years, without providing figures.