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Israel-Hamas truce talks to restart amid signs of movement

July 6, 2024

Israel and Hamas indicate movement on a cease-fire plan in Gaza, with Hamas saying talks for a complete halt to the war ought to continue during a temporary pause, and Israel saying there are "gaps" to be addressed.

Palestinians asses damage following an Israeli strike on a school at the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip on July 6, 2024
An airstrike on a school-turned-shelter in Nuseirat refugee camp killed several SaturdayImage: Omar Ashtawy/APA/IMAGO

Negotiators for both Israel's government and for Hamas, speaking to news agencies on condition of anonymity in the second instance, have hinted at a possible concession from Hamas, before  cease-fire negotiations restart in Qatar at the beginning of next week. 

Reuters and the Associated Press on Saturday both cited unnamed Hamas sources as saying that the group was willing to accept a core part of a US-backed phased cease-fire plan in Gaza that would see it dropping a key demand that Israel commit up front to a complete end to the war.

AP also quoted its source as saying that Hamas wanted "written guarantees" that negotiations towards a permanent cease-fire would continue during the first part of the cease-fire plan that would see a halt to fighting for six weeks and the release of some Israeli hostages in Gaza. Hamas said it had received "verbal commitments and guarantees" to this effect. 

The said temporary cease-fire over six weeks would see hostage releases — prioritizing women, the elderly, and the wounded — in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israel. During that time, a permanent truce and the release of the remaining hostages should be negotiated.

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Israel's government indicates possible movement

The off-the-record comments from Hamas follow somewhat positive signals from Israel late on Friday. 

The head of Israel's Mossad intelligence agency, David Barnea, visited Doha earlier this week, meeting with Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.

On Barnea's return, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government confirmed a new round of talks the following week. 

"It was agreed that next week Israeli negotiators will travel to Doha to continue the talks," the spokesman said, before warning: "There are still gaps between the parties." 

Israeli sources also said off the record on Friday that there appeared to have been a "very significant breakthrough" in Hamas' negotiating posture. 

Hamas' call for an upfront commitment to halt military activity permanently from Israel was one area that Netanyahu's government had said was not acceptable before the hostages' release. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, US and others.

School targeted in Israeli airstrike, Heath Ministry says

Meanwhile, fighting in Gaza continued. The Health Ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said an Israeli airstrike on a school-turned-shelter killed at least 16 people and wounded at least 50 others in the Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

Children were among the dead and wounded. Israel’s military said it was looking into the report.

But there has been no halt in fighting since November

Despite the modest signs of movement over the week, talks brokered by Egypt, Qatar, the US and others have struggled to yield results for months. 

The two sides agreed to a one-week ceasefire late last November, less than two months after Hamas' October 7 terror attacks, in which roughly half of the hostages were released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. 

Since then the two sides have not been able to reach a deal, despite hopes occasionally being raised by similar off-the-record comments.

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Pressure to find accord, 9 months into fighting

There are signs of increasing pressure on both parties to the conflict to reach common ground. 

Israel's allies, including the US, are becoming increasingly critical of a long-running military campaign that began following Hamas' attack into Israel that killed some 1,200 people. The Health Ministry in Gaza says the fighting has claimed more than 38,000 lives.

The next installment of weekly protests demanding the rapid return of the remaining hostages in Israel are expected later on Saturday. 

The intensifying tensions on Israel's border with Lebanon and fears about the fighting on the border potentially escalating into a larger-scale conflict than the one in Gaza puts added pressure on the international community to halt the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

msh/rm (AP, AFP, Reuters)