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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Officials Report Advancements in Cease-fire and Hostage Release Discussions between Israel and Hamas

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CAIRO — Progress is being made in the negotiations between‍ Israel and Hamas towards a cease-fire and hostage-release agreement, according to officials on Tuesday. This comes amidst Israel’s threats to extend‌ its offensive to the southern ‌borders of Gaza, where approximately 1.4 million Palestinians have taken refuge.

Negotiations continued in Egypt following a rescue operation​ by Israeli forces in​ Rafah, ⁢a densely populated ‌town along the ‌Egyptian border. The operation, which ‌resulted in the death of⁤ at⁣ least 74 Palestinians and caused​ significant destruction, provided a glimpse into what ​a full-scale ground advance might entail.

A cease-fire agreement​ would provide much-needed relief to the people of Gaza, who ‍have been suffering from the ongoing war for five months. It would also secure the release of some of the estimated 100 hostages still held captive in Gaza.‌ Qatar, the United ⁣States,‍ and Egypt have been‌ working to broker‍ a deal, despite the starkly different⁤ public positions of Israel and Hamas.

Israel’s primary objectives in the war are to⁤ dismantle Hamas’ governing and military capabilities and to ​free the hostages. The war was initiated after a‍ violent rampage by Hamas-led militants through southern⁣ Israel on Oct. 7, which⁤ resulted in the death of 1,200 people, mostly civilians, ​and the capture⁣ of approximately ⁣250 people. The rampage led to‌ the displacement​ of tens of thousands of Israelis from their destroyed communities.

The war has caused unprecedented destruction in the Gaza Strip, with over 28,000 people killed, ⁣more than 70% of ​whom were women and children, according to local health officials. Israel’s offensive​ has⁢ flattened vast ‌areas of the territory, displaced around 80% of the population, and pushed​ more‍ than a quarter of the ⁤population towards starvation due⁤ to a humanitarian catastrophe.

In related news, South Africa, which has accused Israel⁣ of genocide​ at the International Court of Justice, filed an “urgent request” on Tuesday for the court to consider⁤ whether Israel’s military operations in Rafah violate provisional orders issued by the ⁤justices last month. ⁤These orders called ‍for⁤ Israel to‌ take greater measures to protect civilians.

Israel has vehemently denied⁢ the genocide ​allegations⁤ and maintains that its operations are in compliance with international law. It blames Hamas for the high death toll, arguing‍ that the‍ militants operate in densely populated areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has pledged to continue the fight until “total victory” is ⁣achieved and believes⁣ that military pressure will aid in⁣ freeing the hostages. ‍However, ⁣only ‍two hostages have been rescued‍ by the military since the war began.

Other ‍Israeli officials believe that only a deal can secure the release of‍ a⁣ large number of hostages. Over 100‌ were released in exchange for 240 ​Palestinians imprisoned by Israel during⁣ a week-long truce last year. Three hostages were mistakenly killed ⁤by Israeli forces in December, and⁣ one female Israeli soldier was rescued in the ⁤early weeks of the‍ war. Israeli officials report that around 30⁤ hostages captured on Oct. 7 have died,⁢ either during‌ the initial attack or⁣ while in ⁢captivity.

A senior Egyptian official reported “relatively significant” ⁣progress in the negotiations ahead of a meeting in Cairo on Tuesday, which included representatives from Qatar, the U.S., and Israel. The meeting aimed to ⁤draft a six-week cease-fire deal, with assurances that negotiations towards a permanent cease-fire would continue.

Key figures in the Cairo talks ‌included CIA‌ chief William⁢ Burns and David Barnea, head ‍of⁣ Israel’s Mossad spy agency, both of whom ⁤played a crucial ​role in brokering the previous cease-fire.

‘There are gaps that remain’

A Western diplomat in Cairo confirmed that a six-week deal‍ was being discussed, but warned that more work is needed to reach an agreement.​ The diplomat emphasized the​ importance of Tuesday’s meeting in bridging the remaining ⁣gaps.

Both officials​ requested ⁤anonymity due to the ⁤sensitive ‌nature ⁢of the talks.

While‍ the exact‍ details of the proposed deal were not disclosed, it is known ​that ⁤the parties have been ⁤discussing various proposals for several weeks.‌ Israel has proposed‍ a two-month cease-fire, during ‍which hostages would be released in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel, and top Hamas leaders in Gaza would be allowed to relocate to other countries.

Hamas, however, rejected these terms. It proposed a three-phase plan of 45 days each, during ‍which hostages would ⁢be released in stages, Israel would free hundreds ​of imprisoned Palestinians, including senior militants,​ and the war would gradually end,⁢ with Israel withdrawing ⁤its troops. ‍This proposal was rejected by Israel, which aims to topple Hamas before ending ‍the war.

Despite this, U.S. President Joe ⁤Biden⁣ indicated on Monday that⁤ a deal might be⁤ within reach. “The key elements ​of the deal are on the ⁢table,” Biden said, adding, “There are gaps that‍ remain.” He pledged‍ that the U.S. would do “everything​ possible” to facilitate an‍ agreement.

Despite these signs⁢ of ​progress, the fighting continues. While concerns are growing over ⁣Rafah ​due to ‌the large number ‌of Palestinians seeking refuge there, ⁣fighting continues throughout the Gaza ‌Strip.

The Israeli military reported ongoing battles with militants ⁣in Gaza’s second-largest city, Khan Younis, and in central Gaza. On Tuesday, it announced that three soldiers were‍ killed ⁢in combat, bringing the ⁢death toll among troops since the Gaza ground operation began ⁢in late October to 232.

The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza‍ reported that the ‍bodies of ‍133 people killed⁤ in ‌Israeli strikes​ were brought to hospitals over the‌ past day. This brings the⁤ death toll in Gaza to 28,473 since the war began on Oct.⁤ 7,‍ according to the ministry, which also reports that​ more than 68,000​ people have ⁤been wounded.

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Truth Media Network
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