Gaza peace deal efforts pick up pace as Israel eyes ground invasion of Rafah

Key Points
  • Negotiators from the US, Egypt, Qatar and Israel are reportedly fleshing out the details of a possible hostage deal between Israel and Hamas.
  • White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the deal is still under negotiation.
  • Egyptian security sources said there would be more talks this week in Doha.
Mediators are picking up the pace of talks on a possible ceasefire to free hostages held by Hamas and bring a measure of Ramadan respite to the battered enclave.
Prospects for securing any truce looked uncertain, however, with Israel saying it was, in parallel, planning to expand its sweep to destroy Hamas, while the Islamist faction stood firm on its demand for a permanent end to the nearly five-month-old war.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that negotiators for the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel “came to an understanding” on the basic contours of a hostage deal during talks in Paris.

‘We’ll do it anyway’

But Netahyahu said a potential ceasefire in its war against Hamas militants would only delay a ground invasion of Gaza’s southern city Rafah that has sheltered more than half of the Gaza’s population.
He said that the military operation into Rafah, which borders Egypt, would put Israel within weeks of “total victory” over Hamas.
“If we have a deal, it will be delayed somewhat, but it will happen,” he told CBS of the looming ground invasion feared to bring more mass civilian casualties in Rafah, where around 1.4 million Palestinians – most of them displaced from other areas – have converged.
“If we don’t have a deal, we’ll do it anyway.

“It has to be done because total victory is our goal and total victory is within reach – not months away, weeks away, once we begin the operation.”

Deal still under negotiation

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN negotiators ‘came to an understanding’ on the basics of a hostage deal during talks in Paris, but noted the deal is still under negotiation. Source: Getty / Anna Moneymaker

The deal is still under negotiation, said Sullivan, who added there will have to be indirect discussions by Qatar and Egypt with Hamas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was not clear yet whether a hostage deal would materialise from the talks, declining to discuss specifics but saying Hamas needed to make more reasonable demands.

“They’re in another planet. But if they come down to a reasonable situation, then yes we’ll have a hostage deal. I hope so,” he said.

Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu’s commments cast doubt over Israel’s willingness to secure a deal.

“Netanyahu’s comments show he is not concerned about reaching an agreement,” Abu Zuhri told Reuters, accusing the Israeli leader of wanting “to pursue negotiation under bombardment and the bloodshed (of Palestinians)”.

Egyptian security sources said there would be more talks this week in Doha, with mediators shuttling between Hamas and Israeli delegates, and a follow-up round in Cairo. There was no immediate confirmation of that from Israel, Hamas or Qatar.

Almost 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in the war, Gaza medical officials say. The Hamas raid of 7 October killed 1,200 people in Israel, which has also lost 241 soldiers in Gaza ground fighting that followed, according to official tallies.

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