Hamas chief in Egypt for talks on Gaza

The leader of Hamas is in Egypt to talk about a ceasefire in Gaza and freeing hostages.

  • GAZA: The leader of Hamas visited Egypt on Wednesday (Dec 20) as hopes grew that Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group may be inching toward another truce and hostage release deal in the Gaza war.
  • The Qatar-based Hamas chief, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Cairo for discussions on the “aggression in the Gaza Strip and other matters”, the group said in a statement.
  • He was supposed to meet Egypt’s spy chief for talks on “stopping the aggression and the war to prepare an agreement for the release of prisoners”, a source close to the group told AFP.
  • A source said that Haniyeh was leading a “high-level delegation” to Egypt, which often acts as a go-between for Israel and the Palestinians. Haniyeh had met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian in Qatar earlier.
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told hostage families late on Tuesday that he had twice sent his spy chief to Europe in efforts to “free our hostages”.
  • “It’s our duty, I’m responsible for the release of all the hostages,” the premier told the relatives of some of the 129 captives still thought to be held in Gaza.
  • “Saving them is a supreme job.
  • “I have just sent the head of Mossad to Europe twice to promote a plan to free our hostages. I will spare no effort on the subject, and our job is to bring them all back.”
  • US news site Axios reported on Monday that Mossad head David Barnea had met CIA director Bill Burns and Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in Europe.
  • Qatar, backed by Egypt and the United States, helped broker a week-long peace and hostage-prisoner swap in November in which 80 Israeli hostages were freed in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
  • Axios also reported Tuesday that Israel had offered to pause the fighting in Gaza for at least one week in exchange for more than three dozen hostages held by Hamas.
  • The war began when Hamas militants burst out of Gaza on Oct 7, killing around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, and abducting about 250, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli numbers.
  • Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel began a campaign of bombardment, and then a ground attack, that Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says has killed 19,667 people, mostly women and children.
  • International pressure is building for a new truce that could ramp up aid to the besieged Palestinian territory, with the United Nations set to vote on a ceasefire call after two days of delays.
  • Israeli President Isaac Herzog also said Tuesday his country was “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages”.
  • Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, meanwhile, released video footage on Tuesday it claimed showed two hostages alive in its hands in Gaza, ramping up pressure on Israel.
  • The UN Security Council was set to vote on Wednesday on a resolution asking for a pause in the conflict, three diplomatic sources told AFP, after two previous votes were delayed as members wrangled over wording.
  • The latest version of the text calls for the “suspension” of fighting, the sources said.
  • The US vetoed a previous ceasefire motion in the council, sparking condemnation by Palestinian and humanitarian groups, which urged more action to help civilians caught in the war.
  • For now, fighting was raging unchecked after Israeli military spokesman Daniel Hagari said Tuesday that troops were expanding operations in southern Gaza’s Khan Yunis area.
  • “We must dismantle Hamas, and it will take as long as needed,” he said, as the army said it had now lost 133 soldiers since ground operations began in late October.
  • Hamas sources said Wednesday at least 11 people had been killed overnight in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip.
  • The UN believes 1.9 million of Gaza’s 2.4 million residents have been displaced and concerns are growing about the limited ability of aid groups to help.
  • “Amid displacement at an unimaginable scale and active hostilities, the humanitarian response system is on the brink,” said Tor Wennesland, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.
  • Young Gazans are facing a perilous winter, with the UN children’s agency saying that “child deaths due to disease could surpass those killed in bombardments”.
  • The United States, while fully backing Israel, has also urged it to protect civilians in Gaza.
  • The call was echoed by British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, who on Tuesday called on Israel to take a “much more surgical, clinical and targeted approach” in its fight against Hamas.

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