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Hopes dim for a truce before Ramadan as talks to continue

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Jerusalem, March 7: Negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza and the release of more Israeli hostages will resume next week, Hamas said Thursday, after a delegation of the Palestinian militant group left Cairo.
The announcement dimmed hopes that mediators could broker a truce before the start of Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin at sundown on Sunday. Egyptian officials had earlier said the negotiations reached an impasse over Hamas’ demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war. After nearly five months of war, much of Gaza is in ruins, and international pressure is growing for Israel and Hamas to reach a deal that would halt the fighting and release the remaining Israeli hostages held by Hamas.
The United States, Egypt and Qatar have been trying to broker an agreement that would stop the fighting for six weeks, and include the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
The Egyptian officials said that Hamas has accepted the proposal as a first stage, but wants commitments that it will eventually lead to a more permanent cease-fire. Israel has publicly ruled out that demand, saying it intends to resume the offensive after any cease-fire with the goal of destroying Hamas.
Israel’s near-total blockade of Gaza and the ongoing fighting have made it nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza, aid groups say. Many of the estimated 3,00,000 people still living in northern Gaza have been reduced to eating animal fodder to survive.
Israel launched its offensive after Hamas-led militants stormed across the border on October 7, killing some 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducting around 250. Over 100 hostages were released in November in exchange for 240 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. The number of Palestinians killed has climbed above 30,700, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of the total casualties. It says over 72,000 people have been wounded.
Egyptian officials say negotiations over a cease-fire in Gaza have reached an impasse over Hamas’ demand for a phased process culminating in an end to the war. The US, Egypt and Qatar have been trying for weeks to broker an agreement on a six-week cease-fire and the release of 40 hostages held in Gaza in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel.
Palestinian militants are believed to be holding around 100 hostages, and the remains of 30 others, captured during Hamas’ October 7 attack into Israel that triggered the war. Hamas is also demanding the release of a large number of prisoners, including top militants serving life sentences, in exchange for the remaining hostages. Israel has publicly ruled out those demands, saying it intends to resume the offensive after any cease-fire with the goal of destroying Hamas. (AP)

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