Gaza war talks: What's happening in negotiations to pause Israeli offensive?

The delegation of senior Hamas officials headed by Khalil al-Hayya, the deputy head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for another round of talks aimed at pausing, if not stopping, Israel's relentless war on Gaza. The talks are being mediated by Qatar and Egypt, with the latter having sent its delegation to Israel last week to kick-start the stalled negotiations. Hamas is set to submit its response to the latest Israeli proposals, which reportedly includes a willingness to discuss a "restoration of sustainable calm" in Gaza, according to Arab media sources citing Israeli officials.

Last week, Hamas confirmed receiving a new proposal from Israel on Saturday. Israeli officials have suggested that a deal could include the release of 33 women, children, and older captives in the first phase of a new truce in exchange for Israeli prisoners. Israel has long called for the disarmament of Hamas, a Palestinian Islamic activist group that has ruled over Gaza since 2007.

Egypt, Qatar, and the US have been unsuccessfully attempting to broker a new Gaza truce since November 2022. The talks have taken on a new sense of urgency amid growing indications that Israel is preparing for a ground assault on the city of Rafah, where 1.5 million displaced Palestinians are trapped. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has warned that the US is the only country that can prevent such an occurrence. Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz has stated that his government might suspend its offensive on Rafah if the talks in Cairo yield a deal.

However, there is tension within the Israeli government, with National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smothrich having threatened to dismantle the government if Netanyahu accepts a truce that involves concessions to Hamas. Opposing this stance, Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet, has argued for the release of captives as a priority.

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