A day after Israeli Special Forces stormed Rafah in southern Gaza and rescued two Israeli hostages from a Hamas stronghold, talks for a ceasefire in Gaza resumed in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday.
Reports said Mossad chief David Barnea, CIA Director William Burns, Qatar’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and senior Egyptian intelligence officials were discussing the possibility of a temporary truce and the release of Palestinian prisoners by Israel and hostages taken by the Hamas during the October 7 attack on Israel. The Israeli delegation, which also incudes Shin Bet Director Ronan Bar, and IDF Lt.-Gen. Nitzan Alon, is likely to .
to meet a Palestinian delegation on Wednesday.
“Israel’s delegation will involve representatives of Israel’s intelligence (Mossad), the Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) and the Israeli Defence Ministry (IDF), while the Palestinian one will involve leaders from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad,” The New Arab quoted a high-level Egyptian source as saying. “Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and several senior intelligence officers will join the negotiations brokered by Egypt,” added the source, who requested anonymity since he was not authorised to talk to the media.
Ignoring warnings by the US, UK, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UN, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked his forces to prepare for a ground offensive in Rafah, a small town on the border with Egypt where over 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge from the incessant Israeli attacks.
Over a 100 Palestinians were killed as Israeli aircraft strafed and bombed the city during the rescue operation early Monday morning, which involved an intense firefight between Hamas militants guarding the two hostages and the Israeli forces.
Israel, which says 134 of the 253 hostages taken by the Hamas militants during their October 7 attack are yet to be freed, has rejected Hamas’ terms for a ceasefire as delusional. Netanyahu insists the twin Israeli goals of destroying Hamas’ military capabilities and freeing the remaining hostages can only be achieved through force.
The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip says over 28,473 Palestinians, more than half of them women and children, have been killed and more than 68,000 wounded in Gaza since the Israeli counteroffensive began in October.
Egypt, which fears an Israeli ground offensive in Rafah could lead to a massive influx of refugees into its territory, reportedly threatened to suspend its 40 year old peace treaty with Israel, although Egyptian foreign minister was quoted as saying on Monday that said that Cairo is committed to upholding the treaty.
Meanwhile, the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi on Tuesday said the IDF will work to evacuate civilians from Rafah before it launches its offensive there.
“We know that it is more difficult for us to fight in an environment where there are over a million people and another 10,000 Hamas operatives,” he said in response to a question at a press conference. “In previous parts of the war, we sought to isolate the population. We have the capabilities to do it. We did it in Gaza City. We did it in Khan Younis. We did it in the central camps [of Gaza].
“I am saying here that the residents of Rafah will be allowed to evacuate the area. It is not right for the citizens, for the residents, for the families, to be in the area of fighting. When will it happen? How will it happen? We will decide when the time comes,” he said.