Hamas delegation leaves Cairo with ceasefire talks ongoing until agreement – statement

Palestinian fighters from the armed wing of Hamas take part in a military parade in front of an Israeli military site to mark the anniversary of the 2014 war with Israel, near the border in the central Gaza Strip, July 19, 2023. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/File Photo © Thomson Reuters

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

CAIRO (Reuters) – A Hamas delegation left Cairo on Thursday, but will continue with Gaza ceasefire talks until an agreement is reached with Israel, the Palestinian group said in a statement, with a Hamas official blaming Israel for the lack of progress.

“Hamas’s delegation left Cairo this morning for consultation with the leadership of the movement, with negotiations and efforts continuing to stop the aggression, return the displaced and bring in relief aid to our people,” the Hamas statement said.

But senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Israel had been “thwarting” efforts to conclude a ceasefire deal mediated by Qatar and Egypt during four days of talks hosted by Cairo.

Abu Zuhri told Reuters that Israel was rejecting Hamas’s demands to end its offensive in the enclave, withdraw its forces, and ensure freedom of entry for aid and the return of displaced people.

There was no immediate comment from Israel.

Negotiators from Hamas, Qatar and Egypt – but not Israel – have tried this week to secure a 40-day ceasefire in time for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins early next week.

The deal presented to Hamas for Gaza would free some of the hostages it still holds following the Oct. 7 attack, in which Israel said 1,200 people were killed and 253 abducted. Palestinian prisoners held in Israel would also be released.

Hamas pledged to continue the Cairo talks, but officials in the Palestinian militant group said a ceasefire must be in place before hostages are freed, Israeli forces must leave Gaza and all Gazans must be able to return to homes they have fled.

A source had earlier said Israel was staying away from the Cairo talks because Hamas refused to provide a list of hostages who are still alive. Hamas says this is impossible without a ceasefire as hostages are scattered across the war zone.

Despite earlier comments negotiations were at an impasse, the U.S. said on Wednesday that a truce accord was still possible.

“We continue to believe that obstacles are not insurmountable and a deal can be reached … so we’re going to continue to push for one,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said in Washington.

Health officials in Gaza said the number of people confirmed killed in Israel’s offensive had now passed 30,800. It reported 83 deaths in the past 24 hours and witnesses said the Israeli bombardments continued in Khan Younis, the southern city of Rafah, and areas in central Gaza.

They said Israel had on Thursday returned 47 bodies of Palestinians it had killed earlier during the military offensive, through its crossing with the enclave in the southern Gaza Strip, before they were buried.

Source: Reuters/Reporting by Nidal Al Mughrabi; additional reporting by Jana Choukeir and Tala Ramadan; Editing by Sharon Singleton