Home / News / Hamas says ceasefire talks will continue next week and ceasefire before Ramadan unlikely – Chicago Tribune

Hamas says ceasefire talks will continue next week and ceasefire before Ramadan unlikely – Chicago Tribune



CAIRO — Hamas said Thursday that its delegation has left Cairo and talks on a ceasefire in Gaza and the release of hostages will continue next week, making it extremely unlikely that mediators will reach an agreement before the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims.

Mediators viewed Ramadan as an unofficial deadline because the month of fasting from dawn to dusk often sees Israeli-Palestinian violence linked to access to a major holy site in Jerusalem. The war is already putting a large region on edge, with Iran-backed groups opening fire on Israel and the United States.

Egyptian officials had previously stated that negotiations had reached an impasse over Hamas’ demand for a phased process leading to an end to the war. However, they did not rule out the possibility of an agreement being made before Ramadan, which is expected to start on Sunday.

Hamas spokesman Jihad Taha said Israel “refuses to make commitments and guarantees regarding a ceasefire, return of displaced persons and withdrawal from attack areas.” However, he said that the talks are still ongoing and will continue next week. There has been no statement from Israel yet.

The United States, Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to reach an agreement for a six-week ceasefire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.

Egyptian officials said Hamas had agreed to the main terms of such a deal as a first stage, but wanted commitments that it would ultimately lead to a more permanent ceasefire. They say Israel wants to limit negotiations to a more limited agreement.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the negotiations with the media. Both officials said mediators were still pressing the two sides to soften their positions.

Hamas has said it will not release all the remaining hostages without Israel’s complete withdrawal from the area. Palestinian fighters are believed to be holding about 100 hostages and the remains of 30 others captured during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel that triggered the war.

Hamas is also demanding the release of several prisoners, including top fighters sentenced to life imprisonment, in exchange for the remaining hostages.

Hamas is believed to be holding hostages deep in its vast network of tunnels, where rescue operations are nearly impossible, and using them as human shields for its senior leaders. He hopes to use these as bargaining chips to end the war on his terms.

This poses a huge dilemma for Israel, which may at some point have to choose between its two main goals: bringing back the hostages and trying to destroy Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly rejected Hamas’ demands and said Israel planned to continue the offensive after any ceasefire, extending the offensive to the populous southern city of Rafah and fighting to “complete victory.” He said military pressure would help free the hostages.

Ramadan is a period of intense prayer, reflection and charity for Muslims around the world, who hold festive nightly gatherings with family and friends after fasting ends at sunset. Depending on the moon sighting, the lunar month is expected to begin on Sunday or Monday.

In recent years, Israeli forces and Palestinians have clashed in Jerusalem over access to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site. The hill on which it was built is the holiest place for Jews, known as the Temple Mount because it was the location of Jewish temples in ancient times.

Hamas said it launched the October 7 attack in part in response to what it sees as Israeli encroachment on the region and has called for increased clashes with Israel during the holy month. Israeli officials say access to the site will not change compared to previous years.

Hamas-led fighters crossed the border on October 7, killing nearly 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and capturing another 250. More than 100 hostages were released in a ceasefire agreement last year.

Israel launched a massive air, land and sea offensive in Gaza that displaced nearly 80% of the population from their homes and pushed hundreds of thousands of people to the brink of famine.

The Gaza Ministry of Health announced that at least 30,717 Palestinians were killed. The report does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, but it is stated that approximately two-thirds of those killed were women and children. The ministry, which is part of the Hamas-led government, keeps detailed records and casualty figures from previous wars largely match figures from the UN and independent experts.

Israel says it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters, without providing any evidence. It blames Hamas for high civilian deaths because its fighters operate in densely populated neighborhoods.

Gaza is mired in a humanitarian crisis, and conditions are particularly dire in the north, where the offensive has caused widespread destruction. Most of the 300,000 people currently living there rely on animal food to survive, and the UN says one in six children under 2 in the north suffers from acute malnutrition.

Facing global calls to ease the crisis, Israeli officials said on Wednesday that they would begin allowing aid to be transported directly from their territory to northern Gaza and would also cooperate in creating a sea route from Cyprus.

Aid groups said it had become nearly impossible to deliver supplies to large parts of Gaza due to the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli army, ongoing clashes and disruption of public order. Getting aid to the north is even more difficult.

Sewell reported from Beirut.


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