US says truce up to Hamas as its negotiators due in Cairo

AP , Saturday 2 Mar 2024

A Hamas delegation was expected to fly to Cairo Saturday for new talks on a Gaza ceasefire as a US official said: "The ball is the camp of Hamas".

Israeli army
Israeli troops on the ground in the Gaza Strip on March 2, 2024. AFP


A source close to the Palestinian militant group said the delegation would deliver its "official answer" to a proposal thrashed out with Israeli negotiators in Paris late last month.

Egyptian, Qatari, and US mediators have been shuttling between Israeli and Hamas negotiators, trying to secure a pause in fighting before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan, which begins on March 10 or 11, depending on the lunar calendar.

The mediators "will resume negotiations for a Gaza truce in Cairo on Sunday," Egypt's AlQahera News reported.

Both Washington and Doha had voiced hope a ceasefire could go into effect as early as next week but US President Joe Biden said Thursday that a deal would take longer after more than 100 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli Army while rushing an aid convoy in the Gaza Strip.

A Hamas source told AFP earlier this week that under the proposal, a truce would last for six weeks, with Hamas releasing 42 captives in exchange for Palestinian prisoners.

On Thursday, the White House said the captive release "would result in an immediate and sustained ceasefire in Gaza over a period of at least six weeks".

A senior US official said on Saturday that Israel had broadly accepted the plan and it was now up to Hamas to agree to release captives for the deal to take effect.

"There's a framework deal. The Israelis have more or less accepted it," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. "Right now, the ball is in the camp of Hamas."

Israel's war on Gaza has killed at least 30,320 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry in the territory.

The only previous truce in the war lasted for one week in late November. It saw the release of more than 100 captives, the Israelis among them in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

In addition to halting Israel's war, Hamas wants new truce terms to ensure immediate humanitarian relief for Gazans, an Israeli withdrawal and the return of Gazans displaced from the north, said a source close to the group.

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