Thursday, April 25

Gaza death toll passes 30,000: Latest updates on Israel-Hamas war

Parties vying for a possible ceasefire in Gaza gave mixed signals on Wednesday, with Hamas’ political leader saying the group was ready to continue fighting Israel while Egypt’s president said a truce could be concluded “in the coming days”.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech that the group was open to mediated negotiations with Israel, but that “any flexibility we demonstrate in the negotiation process is a commitment to protecting the blood of our people, accompanied by a desire to defend them. »

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who is brokering negotiations with Qatar and the United States, presented a more optimistic view, saying that “God willing, in the coming days we will reach a ceasefire agreement.” fire” to bring “real relief” to the population of Gaza. That prediction matched that of President Biden, who said a deal could be reached as soon as next week.

Publicly, however, Hamas and Israel stick to their long-held positions and signal no breakthrough. The two sides did not meet face to face, but negotiated through mediators in Doha, Cairo and Paris. Hamas leaders continue to demand that Israel agree to a permanent ceasefire and withdraw all its troops from Gaza, while Israel has insisted it will continue fighting until Hamas is eliminated , suggesting he is not ready to accept a long-term truce.

At a news conference Wednesday evening, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s defense minister, said he was reluctant to comment on Mr. Biden’s remarks that a deal was imminent. “I really hope he’s right,” Mr. Gallant said.

Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said this week that talks were continuing and it was too early to speculate on a resolution. Mr. Haniyeh did not comment on the specific terms of a ceasefire agreement that could be under discussion, and it was not clear whether his remarks reflected real reservations or whether they were a negotiation tactic.

The start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, around March 10, has become a target for mediators to achieve a truce in the war, which began on October 7 with an attack by Hamas on Israel that, according to authorities, killed at least 1,200 people.

Mr. Haniyeh appeared to raise the stakes for reaching an agreement in the coming days, calling on Palestinians in Jerusalem and the Israeli-occupied West Bank to defy Israeli restrictions and march to the Aqsa Mosque to pray at the start of Ramadan. That creates a risk of clashes if Palestinians try to approach the mosque, one of Islam’s holiest sites and a long-standing flashpoint in relations with Israel.

Israel has restricted access to the Aqsa Mosque for Palestinians from the West Bank and has severely restricted travel in the West Bank since the start of the Gaza war. Israeli officials are debating whether to impose new restrictions on mosque access for some members of the country’s Arab minority, a move that could spark further unrest.

As the death toll from the war in Gaza approaches 30,000, according to the territory’s health officials, pressure is growing on Israel and the Biden administration, its main ally, to secure a ceasefire. Israel has offered at least one significant concession, telling Qatari, Egyptian and US mediators in Paris last week that it was prepared to release 15 Palestinians imprisoned on serious terrorism charges in exchange for five female Israeli soldiers detained in Gaza, according to those responsible.

But a Hamas spokesman, Basem Naim, told the New York Times on Tuesday that the group had yet to officially receive “any new proposals” since the Paris meeting. Mr. Haniyeh met the Emir of Qatar on Monday and accused Israel of dragging its feet in negotiations, according to a Hamas statement.

Israeli officials said the aim was to reach an agreement before the start of Ramadan. An Israeli delegation – including professionals from Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, and its military – visited Qatar this week for more in-depth discussions, including details such as the identities of hosts and prisoners to exchange, according to an Israeli official.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press, said the Israeli team was still in Doha and would return to Israel on Thursday. The official said it was still unclear whether negotiations would continue in Egypt next week.

Rawan Sheikh Ahmad, Nada Rashwan And Adam Selle reports contributed.