Israel said to boycott Cairo ceasefire talks over hostage list

March 4, 2024 9:43 am

[Source: Reuters]

Israel boycotted Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo on Sunday after Hamas rejected its demand for a complete list naming hostages that are still alive, an Israeli newspaper reported.

A Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo for the talks, billed as a possible final hurdle before an agreement that would halt the fighting for six weeks.

But by the evening there was no sign of the Israelis.

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“There is no Israeli delegation in Cairo,” Ynet, the online version of Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, quoted unidentified Israeli officials as saying. “Hamas refuses to provide clear answers and therefore there is no reason to dispatch the Israeli delegation.”

Washington has insisted the ceasefire deal is close and should be in place in time to halt fighting by the start of Ramadan, a week away. But the warring sides have given little sign in public of backing away from previous demands.

After the Hamas delegation arrived, a Palestinian official told Reuters the deal was “not yet there”. There was no official comment from Israel.

One source briefed on the talks had said on Saturday that Israel could stay away from Cairo unless Hamas first presented its full list of hostages who are still alive. A Palestinian source told Reuters that Hamas had so far rejected that demand.

In past negotiations Hamas has sought to avoid discussing the wellbeing of individual hostages until after terms for their release are set.
A U.S. official told reporters on Saturday: “The path to a ceasefire right now literally at this hour is straightforward. And there’s a deal on the table. There’s a framework deal.”

Israel had agreed to the framework and it was now up to Hamas to respond, the U.S. official said.

An agreement would bring the first extended truce of the war, which has raged for five months so far with just a week-long pause in November.

Dozens of hostages held by the militants would be freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian detainees.

Aid would be ramped up for Gazans pushed to the verge of famine. Fighting would cease in time to head off a massive planned Israeli assault on Rafah, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are penned in against the enclave’s southern border fence abutting Egypt. Israeli forces would pull back from some areas and let Gazans return to abandoned homes.

But the proposal appears to stop short of fulfilling the main Hamas demand for a permanent end to the war, while also leaving unresolved the fate of more than half of the more than 100 remaining hostages – including Israeli men not covered by terms to free women, children, the elderly and wounded.

Egyptian mediators have suggested those issues could be set aside for now, with assurances to resolve them in later stages. A Hamas source told Reuters the militants were still holding out for a “package deal”.

In other diplomatic moves, Israeli war cabinet member Benny Ganz will meet U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington on

Tuesday, while U.S. envoy Amos Hochstein visits Beirut on Monday to pursue efforts to de-escalate the conflict across the Lebanese-Israeli border.