Egyptian, Israeli delegations meet in bid to restart Gaza truce talks

Hamas says it is "open to any ideas or proposals that take into account the needs and rights of our people". (Photo/AFP)

An Egyptian delegation has met Israeli counterparts, looking for a way to restart talks to end the war in Gaza and return the remaining Israeli hostages, an official briefed on the meetings has said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said on Friday Israel had no new proposals to make, although it was willing to consider a limited truce in which 33 hostages would be released by Hamas, instead of the 40 previously under discussion.

"There are no current hostage talks between Israel and Hamas, nor is there a new Israeli offer in that regard," the official said.

"What there is, is an attempt by Egypt to restart the talks with an Egyptian proposal that would entail the release of 33 hostages - women, elderly and infirm."

According to Israeli media reports, Israeli intelligence officials believe there are 33 female, elderly and sick hostages left alive in Gaza, out of a total of 133 still being held by Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups.

There was no decision on how long any truce would last but if such an exchange were agreed, the pause in fighting would be "definitely less than six weeks", the official said.

Hamas stands firm

The visit by the Egyptian delegation came a day after the United States and 17 other countries appealed to Hamas to release all of its hostages as a pathway to end the crisis in Gaza.

Hamas vowed not to relent to international pressure.

Hamas said it was "open to any ideas or proposals that take into account the needs and rights of our people". However, it stuck to central demands Israel has rejected and said it criticised the statement for not calling for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.

The visit by the Egyptian delegation followed Israeli media reports of a visit to Cairo on Thursday by the Israeli army chief, Lieutenant General Herzi Halevi, and Ronen Bar, the head of Shin Bet, Israel's domestic intelligence service.

Qatar, Egypt key mediators

Egypt, concerned about a potential influx of Palestinian refugees from neighbouring Gaza if the war continues with the long-promised Israeli offensive into the southern city of Rafah, has taken an increasingly active role in the negotiations.

"The Egyptians are really picking up the mantle on this. Egypt wants to see progress, not least because it's worried about a prospective Rafah operation," the official said.

Israel was increasingly looking past Qatar as a main broker, according to the official, after it failed to respond to Israeli demands to expel Hamas leaders from its territory or curb their finances.

"Qatar is still involved but in a lesser capacity," the official said. "It's clear to everyone they failed to deliver, even when it came to expelling Hamas or even shutting down their bank accounts."

However, Hamas officials said they still considered Qatar a key mediator, alongside Egypt.


Source: TRT