update deskIsrael at War

Cairo hostage-for-ceasefire talks extended three days

The negotiations will involve lower-level officials after Tuesday's summit featuring high-ranking officials from Israel, the U.S., Qatar and Egypt.

People walk next to pictures of civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.
People walk next to pictures of civilians held hostage by Hamas terrorists in Gaza, in Jerusalem, Feb. 12, 2024. Photo by Chaim Goldberg/Flash90.

Negotiations in Cairo over a possible hostage-for-ceasefire deal will continue another three days until Friday, The New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing an Egyptian official briefed on the talks.

The initial meeting took place with the participation of high-ranking officials from Israel, the United States, Egypt and Qatar, while the extended multilateral talks will involve lower-level officials, according to the report.

Led by Mossad Director David Barnea, the Israelis sat down with American, Egyptian and Qatari mediators in an attempt to secure the release of the 134 hostages remaining in the hands of Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli group also included Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) head Ronen Bar. It met with CIA Director Bill Burns, head of Egyptian intelligence Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani.

U.S. President Joe Biden said alongside Jordanian King Abdullah II at the White House on Monday that the deal under discussion would include six weeks of an “immediate and sustained period of calm” in Gaza, which could then lead to “something more enduring.”

A senior Egyptian official and a Western diplomat confirmed to the Associated Press on Tuesday that a six-week ceasefire is on the table, with the Egyptian official saying that the summit will focus on “crafting a final draft” of the proposal, with guarantees of further negotiations toward a permanent ceasefire.

The Western diplomat cautioned that more work is necessary to reach an agreement, saying that the Tuesday meeting was critical to bridging gaps between the sides, while the Egyptian official commented that “relatively significant” progress had already been made.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week rejected the “delusional demands” made by Hamas as part of its official response to a deal framework proposed by mediators, emphasizing that bowing to the terrorist organization’s demands would lead to another massacre and constitute a “major disaster” that no Israeli citizen would accept.

“We are on our way to total victory,” he declared. “Total victory over Hamas will not take years. It will take months. Victory is within reach,” said Netanyahu, adding, “The IDF is working miracles and working methodically to achieve all the goals that we set.”

At the Cairo talks, Israel’s pending Rafah military operation to demolish Hamas’s remaining battalions and destroy the terrorist group’s weapons-smuggling tunnels was also discussed.

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Herzl Halevi said on Tuesday that the military will “know how to return” to combat operations against Hamas in Gaza should Jerusalem approve a ceasefire agreement.

“If this agreement involves a cessation of hostilities, as was the case with the previous agreement, we will know very quickly and clearly, as soon as it is necessary at the end of the deal or upon its termination, we will return to fight with a determination that will not be less than the one we had before and after the first agreement [in November], so that we will know to return whenever necessary,” Halevi assured during a visit with troops at the Gaza border.

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