A ceasefire in Gaza is in jeopardy and there is pressure to reach an agreement before Ramadan

By Ahmad Mohamed Hasan and Nidal Al-Maghrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) – Mediators are seeking a formula acceptable to Israel and the Palestinian Islamist movement (Hamas) to reach a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, four sources familiar with the planned talks in Cairo said on Sunday, as pressure increases ahead of Ramadan. Stop fighting.

Representatives of Israel and Hamas will arrive in Cairo on Sunday, two Egyptian security sources said Saturday, but another informed source said Israel would not send any delegation to the Egyptian capital until it had a complete list of names. Israeli hostages still alive.

In the past few days, hopes of reaching the first ceasefire since November have risen following a round of talks brokered by Qatar and Egypt in Doha and indications from US President Joe Biden that an agreement would be reached.

Two Egyptian sources and a Hamas official said the movement had not backed down from its position that the temporary ceasefire was meant to be the start of a process to end the war altogether.

But Egyptian sources said Hamas had been assured that the conditions for a permanent ceasefire would be set out in the second and third phases of the deal. Both sources said an initial cessation of hostilities had been agreed, a phase expected to last six weeks.

Hamas has not yet responded to a request for comment on these assurances or whether they are sufficient to move forward with the six-week ceasefire.

A Palestinian official familiar with the mediation efforts has yet to confirm news of the resumption of talks in Cairo. The official said, “There is still a gap between the two parties' positions on ending the war and withdrawing (Israeli) forces from Gaza.”

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A senior US administration official said on Saturday that the six-week ceasefire framework was in place with Israel's approval and was dependent on Hamas agreeing to release hostages held in Gaza after an October 7 attack on southern Israel.

But until Hamas clarifies how many hostages will be released from Gaza and how many are still alive, Israel will not send any delegation to the Cairo talks, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

Hamas has claimed that about 70 prisoners have been killed in Israeli military operations over the past few days.

Israel also wants Hamas to agree to a percentage of Palestinian prisoners released for each hostage taken, the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A draft proposal presented in Paris last February and sent to Hamas a few days earlier suggested progress on several issues and proposed a total ratio of 10 Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for the release of each hostage.

“No delegation will leave for Cairo until clear answers are given,” the informed source said.

Both Egyptian sources said completion of the deal still required an agreement on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from northern Gaza and the return of displaced residents to the south. But a source familiar with the talks said the return of displaced Palestinians to northern Gaza was not a major obstacle for Israel.

The draft proposal also includes a commitment to increase humanitarian aid to the sector, where more than a million Palestinians have been displaced and are suffering from food and medicine shortages.

It is unclear whether the killing of dozens of Palestinians waiting for aid near Gaza City on Thursday will affect the timing of any agreement.

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“We're not there yet,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House on Friday.

But Egyptian and US negotiators are still expected to reach a partial or full agreement by next week, security sources said.

Israel, Hamas, Egypt, Qatar and the US State Department have yet to respond to requests for comment.

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