Gaza: Uncertainties around a potential ceasefire, fighting continues

by Dan Williams and Nidal al-Mughrabi

JERUSALEM/CAIRO (Reuters) – Fighting continued in the Gaza Strip over the weekend as mediating countries sought common ground for a possible ceasefire that would free hostages held by Hamas.

A potential deal is still uncertain, however, as Israel has said it plans to expand its operations against Hamas, while the Islamist group has remained firm on ending the fighting.

Residents said Israeli forces shelled several areas of the enclave. Tanks entered Beit Lahiya and the two sides clashed in the Zeitoun area of ​​Gaza City.

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At least 86 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli strikes since Saturday, according to medical services. The Israeli army reported the death of two soldiers during fighting in the south of the Gaza Strip. Its forces killed or captured several armed Palestinians, including in Zeitoun, she added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu convened his war cabinet Saturday evening to hear reports from delegates returning from Paris, where talks were held with Qatari, Egyptian and American mediators about a possible second ceasefire. -fire.


The first break in fighting, in November, saw the release of about half of the 253 hostages captured by Hamas during the October 7 cross-border attack. As part of the deal, Israel released Palestinian prisoners and allowed more humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza.

According to Israeli media, the talks in Paris would have resulted in a draft six-week ceasefire covering the month of Ramadan and including the return of around a third of the 130 hostages still present in Gaza. No official confirmation has been given by either party, however.

The United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have managed to define the “fundamental contours” of an agreement on a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN . The latter added that negotiations were still ongoing.

Palestinian officials said Hamas insisted that Israel end the offensive and withdraw its forces regardless of the deal. Israel has announced its intention to enter one of the last cities where Hamas has intact forces.

Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he did not know whether the current discussions would lead to an agreement while asserting that Hamas must “achieve a reasonable situation”.

“They are on another planet. But if they reach a reasonable situation, then yes we will have an agreement on the hostages. I hope so,” he confided.

For Sami Abu Zuhri, senior Hamas official, these statements cast doubt on Benjamin Netanyahu’s real desire to seal an agreement.

“Netanyahu’s comments show that he is not concerned about reaching an agreement,” Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters, accusing the Israeli leader of wanting to “continue negotiations under the bombing and massacre of Palestinians.”

In an interview with CBS News, he added that he would hold a meeting with his team on Sunday to study the plan including the evacuation of Palestinian civilians from Gaza and the military operation to destroy the remaining Hamas battalions.

“If we have an agreement, it will be postponed but it will happen. If we don’t have an agreement, we will still do it,” he told CBS.

“We are working to establish another framework for the release of those kidnapped and finalize the elimination of Hamas battalions in Rafah,” Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier on Facebook.

This week, he added, Israel’s security cabinet will approve military plans for Rafah, including the evacuation of more than a million displaced Palestinian civilians who have taken refuge there.

According to Gaza medical officials, 29,692 Palestinians were killed during the war. Hamas, during its October 7 raid in Israel, killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

(Written by Dan Williams; French version Kate Entringer and Zhifan Liu)

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