The war between Israel and Hamas: progress on the ceasefire and hostage talks

CAIRO (AP) — Israel and Hamas are making progress toward another ceasefire agreement and hostage release, officials said Tuesday, as negotiations continue and Israel threatens to expand its offensive to the southern end of Gaza, where some 1.4 million Palestinians have taken refuge. .

The talks continued in Egypt the next day Israeli forces rescued two prisoners In Rafah Busy southern city Along the Egyptian border, in a raid that killed at least 74 Palestinians, according to local health officials, and caused significant destruction. The operation provided a glimpse of what a full overland advance might look like.

On the other hand, a ceasefire agreement would give the people of Gaza a much-needed respite from the war. Now in his fifth month, providing freedom to at least some of the estimated 100 people still detained in Gaza. Qatar, the United States and Egypt sought to broker a deal in the standoff Starkly different positions It was expressed publicly by both Israel and Hamas.

Israel made destroying Hamas's ruling and military capabilities and liberating the hostages the primary goals of its war, which it launched after thousands of battles. Hamas-led militants attacked It crossed southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and capturing approximately 250 people. Tens of thousands of Israelis were displaced from destroyed communities.

The war has caused unprecedented devastation in the Gaza Strip, where more than 28,000 people have been killed, more than 70% of whom were women and minors, according to local health officials. Vast areas of land were leveled due to the Israeli attack, and about 80% of the population was displaced. Humanitarian catastrophe More than a quarter of the population was pushed into starvation.

In other developments, South Africa, which filed genocide allegations against Israel before the International Court of Justice, said on Tuesday that it had submitted an “urgent request” to the court to consider whether Israeli military operations in Rafah constitute a violation of the international rule of law. The interim orders were issued by judges last month. These orders called on Israel to take greater measures to spare civilians.

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Israel has strongly denied the allegations of genocide and said it carries out its operations in accordance with international law. It blames Hamas for the high death toll because militants operate in dense residential areas.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to press until “total victory” was achieved, insisting that military pressure would help free the hostages. But the hostages who were rescued, 60-year-old Fernando Marman and 70-year-old Luis Harr, They were just the second and third prisoners released by the army since the outbreak of war.

Other Israeli officials said Only a deal could lead to their release Large numbers of hostages.

More than 100 Palestinians were released in exchange for the release of 240 Palestinians arrested by Israel during a week-long truce last year. There were three hostages He was accidentally killed by Israeli forces In December, an Israeli soldier was released on a rescue mission in the first weeks of the war. Israeli officials say about 30 hostages taken on October 7 died, either during the initial attack or during their captivity.

Fill in the gaps

A senior Egyptian official said the mediators had made “relatively significant” progress ahead of Tuesday’s meeting in Cairo of representatives of Qatar, the United States and Israel. The official said the meeting will focus on “drafting a final draft” of a six-week ceasefire agreement, with guarantees that the parties will continue negotiations towards a permanent ceasefire.

The Cairo talks were attended by CIA Director William Burns and David Barnia, head of the Israeli spy agency Mossad. Both men played a key role in brokering the previous ceasefire.

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A Western diplomat in the Egyptian capital also said that a six-week agreement was on the table, but warned that more work was still needed to reach an agreement. The diplomat said Tuesday's meeting would be crucial to filling the remaining gaps.

The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss sensitive conversations with the media.

While officials did not reveal the exact details of the emerging deal, both sides were Discussing various proposals For weeks.

Israel proposed a two-month ceasefire under which the hostages would be released in exchange for the release of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Senior Hamas leaders In Gaza they will be allowed to move to other countries.

Hamas rejected these conditions. A plan was drawn up in three phases, each lasting 45 days, during which the hostages would be released in stages. Israel would release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including major militants, and the war would end with Israel withdrawing its forces. This was seen as an unfortunate start for Israel, which wants to overthrow Hamas before ending the war.

but President Joe Biden He indicated on Monday that an agreement may be within reach.

Biden said, during the presence of visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II, that “the basic elements of the agreement are on the table,” adding that “there are gaps that still exist.” He said the United States would do “everything in its power” to reach an agreement.

The death toll is rising

Signs of progress came despite the ongoing fighting.

Palestinians are still counting the dead after the Israeli hostage rescue mission as the death toll rose on Tuesday to 74. Residents and displaced Palestinians in Gaza were searching through the rubble caused by Israeli air strikes that provided cover for the rescue mission.

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Al Jazeera, the Qatari-funded Arab broadcaster, said an Israeli airstrike in Rafah injured two of its journalists, with one of them undergoing an amputation. She said that the two wounded were photographer Ahmed Matar and reporter Ismail Abu Omar. It was not clear when the raid took place, and the Israeli army had no immediate comment.

While concerns about Rafah increased due to… It houses such a large number of PalestiniansFighting continued throughout the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army said that its forces were fighting militants in Khan Yunis, the second largest city in Gaza, and in central Gaza. It said on Tuesday that three soldiers were killed in the fighting, bringing the death toll among soldiers since the start of the ground operation in Gaza in late October to 232.

Ministry of Health The Hamas-run Gaza Strip says the bodies of 133 people killed in Israeli raids were transferred to hospitals over the past day. Their deaths bring the death toll in Gaza to 28,473 since the war began on October 7, according to the ministry, which says more than 68,000 people have been injured.

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Gobin reported from Rafah, Gaza Strip, and Goldenberg reported from Tel Aviv, Israel. Associated Press writer Gerald Imray in Cape Town, South Africa, contributed to this report.

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Find more AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/israel-hamas-war

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