Gaza Truce Talks Make ‘Significant Progress’ – Egypt State Media

Talks in Cairo on a Gaza truce and hostage release arrangement have made “significant progress,” Egyptian state-run media claimed Monday, more than half a year after the October 7 attack.

Israel maintained the pressure, saying that it was prepared for further military operations against Hamas in Gaza’s extreme south, including Rafah, the last enclave spared a ground assault.

On Sunday, Israel withdrew its soldiers from the southern Gaza Strip and its main city, Khan Yunis, allowing a huge number of displaced Palestinians to return to the destroyed city.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that the goal was to prepare Israeli forces for future missions, notably in Rafah on the Egyptian border.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed Israel was “one step away from victory” as it marked a half-year of war since the horrific attack on October 7.

However, as truce discussions resumed, Netanyahu assured his cabinet that “Israel is ready for a deal” and that “there will be no ceasefire without the return of hostages”.

International pressure has increased on Israel to cease the war, which has claimed many civilian lives and damaged large sections of coastal Palestinian territory.

Last Monday, Israel’s biggest ally, diplomatic backer, and weaponry supplier, the United States, sought a cease-fire and hostage release deal, as well as increased aid deliveries.

US President Joe Biden stepped up his rhetoric after expressing “outrage” over an Israeli strike that murdered seven relief workers from the US-based food charity World Central Kitchen.

While Israel and Hamas have maintained bellicose rhetoric, they have also sent negotiators to Cairo, accompanied by mediators from the United States, Egypt, and Qatar.

According to an alleged high-ranking Egyptian source, “significant progress is being made on several contentious points of agreement” according to Egyptian state-linked news outlet Al-Qahera.

According to the site, Qatari and Hamas representatives had departed Cairo and were scheduled to return “within two days to finalise the terms of the agreement”.

Delegations from the United States and Israel were also scheduled to leave Cairo “in the next few hours” for consultations over the next 48 hours, according to the statement.

‘Better than tents’

The 98th commando division of Israel departed from Khan Yunis on Sunday, leaving Gaza “to recuperate and prepare for future operations,” according to the army.

After troops left the mostly wrecked city, a steady stream of displaced Palestinians walked there, seeking to return to their houses from temporary shelters in Rafah, a bit further south.

Maha Thaer, a mother of four returning to Khan Yunis, stated that she would return to her badly damaged flat, “even though it is not suitable for living, but it is better than tents”.

The conflict was launched by a Hamas militant attack against Israel on October 7, which killed 1,170 persons, the majority of whom were civilians, according to Israeli authorities.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants have kidnapped over 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, including 34 who the IDF claims are dead.

On Sunday, thousands gathered in front of Israel’s Knesset to demand the return of the hostages.

“Stay strong, you who are still there,” shouted Agam Goldstein, a 17-year-old former hostage, through tears.

Israel’s military onslaught has killed at least 33,175 people in Gaza, predominantly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-controlled region.

According to a World Bank analysis, vast parts of Gaza have been converted into rubble-strewn wastelands, with infrastructure damage, largely homes, estimated at $18.5 billion.

Charities have accused Israel of obstructing help, but Israel has defended its efforts and blamed shortages on aid organizations’ failure to distribute it once it arrives.

“The denial of basic needs — food, fuel, sanitation, shelter, security, and health care — is inhumane and intolerable,” World Health Organization president Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on the social networking platform X.

On Sunday, aid vehicles entered Gaza through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing, while medical supplies arrived through Israel’s Erez gate in the north.

Iranian threats

As the battle in Gaza raged, Iran-backed extremist organizations in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen increased their violence.

Israel was widely accused for an early last week bombing on Iran’s consulate facility in Syria, which sparked retaliatory threats from the Islamic Republic.

An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader warned on Sunday that Israeli embassies were “no longer safe” following the bombing in Syria that killed seven Revolutionary Guards men.

Gallant stated that the army had “finished all its preparations to react to any scenario that could arise regarding Iran”.

The Israeli army also stated that it has entered “another phase” of preparation along its northern border with Lebanon, where it has been exchanging fire with Iran-backed Hezbollah for months.

Israeli fighter planes targeted a facility of Hezbollah’s elite Radwan Forces “in the area of Khiam” near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, as well as a command center near Toura, northeast of Tyre, according to the army.

Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, claimed they attacked a British ship and two Israeli vessels after a British marine security firm reported three separate strikes off Yemen’s coast.

Since November, the Huthis have launched scores of missile and drone attacks on ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, prompting the United States to retaliate against Houthi targets.

Iran’s top diplomat, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, praised “the brave support of the Yemeni nation for the oppressed Palestinian nation” when speaking in Oman on Sunday.

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