update deskIsrael at War

Conflicting signals as Israeli team returns from Cairo hostage talks

A senior Hamas official rejected reports of progress, saying Israel "did not respond to any of the terror group's demands."

Thousands of Israelis take part in a rally marking six months since the Hamas Oct. 7 massacre, outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Thousands of Israelis take part in a rally marking six months since the Hamas Oct. 7 massacre, outside the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem, April 7, 2024. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

The Israeli delegation led by Mossad chief David Barnea departed Cairo on Monday amid conflicting reports of progress in negotiations to free the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

Later on Monday, they will update the political echelon on the latest developments and proposals presented by mediators.

Indirect talks have been taking place in Cairo, Doha and Paris brokered by Egypt, Qatar and the United States for a temporary ceasefire that would see the release of the 133 captives still in the Strip more than six months after the Oct. 7 invasion.

The Hamas delegation also left the Egyptian capital, with a senior official from the terrorist group saying in an interview with the Qatari Al Jazeera network that no progress was made since Israel “did not respond to any of Hamas’s demands.”

Hamas will not budge on its demands for a “permanent ceasefire” and a full IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as part of any hostage agreement, according to the Palestinian terrorist group’s leader in exile.

Ismail Haniyeh, who is based in Doha under the protection of the Qatari government, commented in a televised speech ahead of Quds Day on April 5 that Hamas would not change its conditions for a deal, which Jerusalem has described as “delusional” and a non-starter.

“We are committed to our demands: a permanent ceasefire, comprehensive and complete withdrawal of the enemy out of the Gaza Strip, the return of all displaced people to their homes, allowing all aid needed for our people in Gaza, rebuilding the Strip, lifting the blockade and achieving an honorable prisoner exchange deal,” said Haniyeh.

Jerusalem’s war goals are to free the hostages, defeat Hamas as a political and military entity in Gaza and ensure that the territory can never again threaten Israel. However, those goals have come into question after Israel withdrew all of its forces from southern Gaza, leaving just one brigade in all of the Strip.

Sources involved in the negotiations in Cairo told Ynet that “a significant offer was passed to Hamas” on Sunday night, saying they were practical discussions animated by a desire to move forward.

“The previous offer was very significant in terms of its scope of content, and now we are waiting for Hamas’s answer, which can also be negative,” the sources said. They added that “the offer is significant in all aspects of the deal—the return of residents to the northern Gaza Strip, the deployment of the IDF and the issue of the keys [for the release of prisoners].”

 U.S. President Joe Biden dispatched CIA Director William Burns to Cairo for the talks and on Friday urged the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to pressure Hamas to agree to a ceasefire and hostages-for-terrorists release deal.

A senior Biden administration official told Reuters the president wrote letters to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in which “he urged them to secure commitments from Hamas to agree and abide by a deal.”

The Saudi Asharq News channel reported on Monday that at the Cairo talks, Burns offered a temporary truce during the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan, which runs from Tuesday until Friday. During the pause, negotiations in Cairo would continue.

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