The visit comes as the Israeli government indicates it is open to another truce, but major sticking points remain.
The head of the Hamas political bureau arrived in Cairo for talks on the war in Gaza, with hopes growing that the Palestinian movement and Israel could agree on the terms of another ceasefire.
Ismail Haniyeh arrived in the Egyptian capital on Wednesday to meet with the head of Egyptian intelligence and other Egyptian officials acting as main mediators. Meanwhile, Israeli officials have indicated in talks with American and Qatari representatives that Tel Aviv may be open to a truce agreement.
A Hamas source told AFP that Haniyeh intends to discuss “stopping the aggression” in Gaza. The world is pressing both Israel and the Palestinian movement to agree on terms to stop the bombing in Gaza, which after 10 weeks of devastating Israeli attacks has killed nearly 20,000 people, including 7,729 children, and left 1.9 million displaced and in need of water and food. And medicine.
During the truce, which lasted from November 24 to December 1, international agencies were able to ship much-needed aid. Israel released 240 Palestinian prisoners, and Hamas returned 100 Israelis and others captured during its October 7 attacks, which killed about 1,200 people and sparked fierce Israeli retaliation in the Strip.
Hamas captured a total of 240 Israeli prisoners in an unprecedented attack on Israeli territory on October 7, which also led to the deaths of 1,200 people, most of them Israeli civilians, Israel says, at the beginning of the current war.
Israel has since continued to bomb Gaza, claiming that it must eliminate Hamas. But the two sides recently resumed indirect talks, mediated by Egypt and Qatar, with the aim of reaching another ceasefire and releasing more prisoners in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel.
The talks in Cairo will also include “a possible agreement for their release.” [Palestinian] “Prisoners,” the source said.
Haniyeh’s visit comes after the Israeli government indicated that it might be open to agreeing on another truce. Pressure is increasing on it to return the 129 prisoners still held by Hamas to their homeland.
Speaking to the families of the prisoners on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that intensive diplomatic efforts were being made to return their relatives. This included a meeting on Monday in Warsaw between the head of Israeli intelligence, the Qatari prime minister and the head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, where officials reached potential terms for a ceasefire.
Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Doha, Hashem Ahlbara, said that this meeting was “very positive.” He added that Qatari negotiators, who were the main mediators in the previous temporary ceasefire, are now “in contact with both Hamas and the Israelis about the possibility of resuming talks.”
Israeli media reported that Tel Aviv is seeking to reach a “humanitarian” agreement to secure Hamas’ release of female prisoners and the elderly, as well as any physically or mentally ill person. The government reportedly believes such a group would include between 30 and 40 prisoners.
However, the demands of Israel and Hamas reveal major sticking points for any remaining new deal.
Hardliners in the Israeli government and military officials are looking forward to more months of fighting. Netanyahu, who is under great political pressure at home, has pledged to continue the Israeli military offensive until “complete victory” over Hamas is achieved.
For its part, Hamas said that it would not release any more prisoners until the Israeli bombing stopped.
Haniyeh, who spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian on Tuesday evening, appeared to stick to that position, saying the group was willing to reach another agreement, but only if Israel stops its attacks first.
“The problem this time is the different interpretations from Israel and Hamas,” Ahlbara said. “This time Hamas insists that the agreement cannot be just a prisoner exchange – it must be based on a permanent ceasefire.”
In an interview with Al Jazeera, Hamas official Ghazi Hamad said that once the war stops, Hamas is ready to negotiate a major settlement on the exchange of prisoners.
“Our vision is very clear: we want to stop the aggression,” he said. “What is happening on the ground is a major catastrophe.”
But he added that a short pause in the conflict would not be in the interest of Hamas or the Palestinians.
He added: “Israel will take the hostage cards and then a new round of mass killing and massacres will begin against our people.” “We won’t play this game”
However, Ahlbara noted that there are “strong indications that there is pressure from all parties to reach an agreement” in the coming days.
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